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Should a Woman Open-Air Preach?

The Word on the Street

From Ray Comfort’s book, The Word on the Street.

Perhaps you would like to preach open air, but you are a woman. The moment you let your desire be known, get ready for your own battle of sorts. Someone will tell you that it’s not a woman’s place to preach. So let me give you my thoughts on the subject. I think the Scriptures are very clear about the place of women within the church. Women holding a place of leadership (of authority over men) within the church is unbiblical. However, I don’t see any biblical grounds for the Great Commission being restricted to the male gender.

Some believe that a woman should never testify in the open air, because she would be in direct violation of Scripture: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:11,12). However, it is clear from the words “Let a woman learn in silence” that this is a reference to church conduct, not to reaching out to the lost. Paul is merely reaffirming church structure that had already been put in place within the local church:

Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34,35, emphasis added)

“There is no reason to believe that the Great Commission was restricted to men. God saw fit to give women the power to be witnesses on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 1:14; 2:1–4).”

If Paul was speaking of the task of evangelism when he said that a woman should be silent, then all Christian women should ignore Jesus’ command to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Instead, they should be silent. Again, if this is a general conduct admonition to the Christian woman, she should not testify either one to one or one to a hundred. She should keep silent.

However, there is no reason to believe that the Great Commission was restricted to men. God saw fit to give women the power to be witnesses on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 1:14; 2:1–4). God had promised that this power to witness would be given to women as well as men: “And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Acts 2:18, emphasis added). When Jesus said to pray for laborers, I don’t think he meant men only, and most within the Body of Christ would agree with me that every Christian, male and female, is commanded to preach the gospel to every creature.

The Bible doesn’t say, “How beautiful are the feet of the men who preach the gospel of peace . . .” (Romans 10:15) or “Go [men] into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). In both cases the word “preach” is the Greek word kerysso, which means “to herald (as a public crier).” Whether you are a man or a woman, you are commanded to preach the gospel—to raise your voice as a town crier.

After the woman at the well met the Savior, she witnessed to the men in her city (see John 4:28). Did she do this on a one-to-one basis, and become silent if more than one man gathered in the open air to listen to her testify? Thank God that she wasn’t silent: “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did’” (John 4:39).

When giving the do’s and don’ts of preaching in the open air, R. A. Torrey stated, “None but consecrated men and women will ever succeed in open-air meetings.” The Salvation Army, which was famous for their open-air preaching, gave women equal responsibility with men for preaching and welfare work and on one occasion cofounder William Booth remarked, “My best men are women!”

“Whether you are a man or a woman, you are commanded to preach the gospel—to raise your voice as a town crier.”

The apostle Paul certainly involved women in the task of evangelism. He said, “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life” (Philippians 4:3). Women “labored” with him “in the gospel.”

Scripture names a number of women who were Paul’s “fellow workers” (sunergos) in the gospel (see Romans 16:3,9,12). This is a reference to the task of evangelism—as “those who helped [Paul] in spreading the gospel.” Paul used this term not only for men but also for women, as in the case of Priscilla (Romans 16:3) and Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2). Other women Paul commends for their “labor in the Lord” were Mary, Persis, Tryphena, and Tryphosa (see Romans 16:6,12).

Charles Spurgeon included women when he spoke of Jesus making His hearers “fishers of men.” Although it’s not clear if he is speaking of testifying in the open air, he exhorted both men and women to evangelize:

Now, if never before, every glow-worm must show its spark. You with the tiniest farthing candle must take it from under the bushel, and set it on a candlestick . . . You men and women that sit before me, you are by the shore of a great sea of human life swarming with the souls of men. You live in the midst of millions; but if you will follow Jesus, and be faithful to him, and true to him, and do what he bids you, he will make you fishers of men.

I thank God that He chose women rather than men to be first to herald the good news of the resurrected Savior. These faithful women took the good news to a group of hard-hearted, faithless men who were cringing in fear behind locked doors. That makes me wonder if the men who want women to be in silence preach in the open air themselves. Could it be that they are embarrassed by the fact that women are doing what they themselves don’t have the courage to do?

God isn’t averse to using women. He used Deborah as a prophet, a judge, and a deliverer in Israel (see Judges 4:4–10). What specifically is the objection to Him using women in the New Testament age, outside of the defined order of the local church? Is it because more than two people are listening to her, or because she lifts the volume of her voice? Then just think of open-air preaching as one-to-one witnessing, with some extra listeners and a little more volume. I was overjoyed when a friend sent me a video of his wife surrounded by about eighty Boy Scouts in a public park, listening to her every word—as she lovingly lifted up her voice to tell them how to find everlasting life. How could any Christian object to such a wonderful sight? But if you do still object on the grounds of your interpretation of Scripture, then read Philippians 1:15–18 and put it into practice. Rejoice with me anyway that the gospel is being preached.

When a slow car enters a freeway I have to remind myself to have grace toward the driver because his perception of speed is different from mine. The cars on the freeway seem to him to be going at a maddening pace, and it takes a minute or two of driving to adjust to the perceived faster speed.

The Scriptures tell us to have “grace” toward each other. This is because we all see things from a different perspective (I’m sure you would agree with that). What seems the right perspective on some issues to one person can seem like crazy thoughts to another, and from there contention can arise.

I thank God that there are women nowadays who love God and sinners enough to stand up and lift up their voice like a trumpet and preach the gospel to this dying world. So if you are of the female gender, ignore any discouragement. Don’t hold back from reaching out to the lost in any way you can, whether it be one to one or one to a hundred.

Get your copy of The Word on the Street.

The Word on the Street
1. Why This Controversial Open-Air Preaching Tactic Is Actually Biblical
2. Want to Open-Air Preach? Use a Talent to Draw a Crowd
3. Without Repentance, Sinners Will Perish
4. How Should Open-Air Preachers Handle Hecklers?
5. Should a Woman Open-Air Preach?
6. How to Share the Gospel with a Muslim… WITHOUT Offending Them
7. Overcoming Fear When Sharing Your Faith
8. These Bible Verses Prove a Literal Hell

Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort is the Founder and CEO of Living Waters, a bestselling author, and has written more than 100 books, including, The Evidence Study Bible. He cohosts the award-winning television program Way of the Master, which airs in 190 countries.

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