Sunday, September 23, 2007important words from fellow soldiers...
Brother Robert, the same Robert who has been commenting on this blog for a number of weeks now, has sent me via e-mail a summary of an evangelistic endeavour he was involved in a few weeks ago. The e-mail is more than just an account of what happened during this endeavour, it is a much needed call to arms to all true believers in Christ Jesus.
I want to share this e-mail with all of you, dear readers, because I feel the account and the overall message is important:
Happy Friday! Outreach report: Bay Days Festival
Newport News, VA Sept 8th 2007
First off, I'm sorry this is so long but I did my best!
I arrived a day late (Saturday) just in time to meet everyone and head out to the festival. Bay Days is a kind of “Street Festival” that is mostly an excuse to get drunk and not feel guilt about it.
We went there to preach “Open Air” as they did in biblical times, and throughout church history. Preaching Open Air is a very effective way to get the “good news” to a lot of people in a short amount of time. One thing has to be noted here: many people see someone proclaiming the gospel while standing on a box or stool as a ridiculous and ineffective means of “reaching out to people.” They say this because of “perceived results.” In other words; because some people mock the preaching and they don’t see anyone running to you to embrace your message, then you must be doing something wrong.”
I’d like to state clearly here and now that perceived results are NOT the yard stick by which we measure our success or failure. We measure success by how faithful we are to preach a clear message. That’s it. John the Baptist was an Open Air preacher, Jesus preached Open Air, the Apostles did also. All through church history, this has been done to spread the good news.
Now that that’s been said…
We arrived a little late, 1:00 PM, and set up. We had a very busy corner staked out and there were LOTS of people at the festival already! (300,000 people attend the fest in a 3 day period!) We passed out tracts for a few minutes before the preaching started. A little explanation about why we pass out tracts: we pass out tracts for two reasons; first, they are a good way to get the gospel to someone with whom you’ll never see again. Second, they are a good “ice breaker” when you are seeing who is, or is not, open to speaking to you. You hand them a tract, and if they crumple it up and throw it back at you…they MIGHT not be open to discussing the things of God with you! BUT, if they take it and if they begin to read, then you have your opening.
I must have talked to 25-50 people myself on Saturday. Many of them, because they didn’t like what we were doing and were more than willing to talk about it! I’d look for someone who was listening in the crowd, even if they looked mad, I’d ask them what they thought of the crazy guy on the box and what he had to say. One man I talked to; “john” said that he thought that what we were doing was definitely NOT right because nobody was stopping to listen. He said we should think about maybe being nicer and quieter in our approach…I ended up talking to John for 30 minutes and talked to him about his eternal destiny; all because he didn’t like what we were doing! Now granted, he was proud, and thought that it was arrogant to think that there is only one path to God, but he heard the gospel none the less.
I wish I was making this part up, but I’m not…St. Marks Episcopal Church was selling beer in the booth across from where we were preaching! I’m not kidding! Here we are at a festival used as an excuse to get wasted, fights, lewd behavior, and everything else that goes with it…and they are supplying the alcohol!
I asked them about it, and apparently my fellow Christians had already done so several times, so they were tired of hearing it by the time I got there! The man behind the beer tap informed me that Jesus turned water into wine and so there is nothing wrong with a church selling beer! When he found out I was with the crew who were preaching; he really gave me the business!
If you think that a church selling beer is no big deal, then I have to relay something that happened on Saturday night; Rob was preaching about 20 feet away from the church beer booth, and it was packed and more rowdy than the daytime crowd. He had just gotten to the place in his sermon where he quotes “do not be deceived, no drunkards…will enter the kingdom of Heaven” when a man holding a beer passed right by me and exclaimed “what are you talking about? The CHURCH is selling the beer!”
How sad that this is what the unsaved see from the church! Instead of being “the light of the world” they are now known as “the Miller-Lite” of the world. :(
At one point, a woman in an electric golf cart pulled up to me and told me that we could not pass anything out! She was pretty upset by what we were doing and I pointed her to the leader of our group; Nathan, who had already checked with the Police before we ever arrived to make sure that it would be ok to pass out tracts and preach. After confronting him with her objection, and not getting anywhere, and the police telling her that we had the right to what we were doing, she was so mad that she took matters into her own hands, she parked her golf cart right in front of the person who was currently preaching, and put it in reverse to it would make the continuous beeping sound and hopefully drown the person preaching out! When the person preaching moved his stool, she moved the golf cart! When she realized that wasn’t working, she decided to take a different tact; she got between Nathan and anyone he tried to hand a tract to and “block” the tract “hand off!” Amazing isn’t it? You can sell beer in the name of God but you cannot preach his word!
It’s interesting that while most mock and belittle us for the message, some do listen. It’s these people that we “intercept” and ask them about what they think about where they’d go when they died.
As I’ve said before, people have a very much inflated opinion of their own innate goodness and nobody thinks that they’d go to hell…no matter what they’re doing!
I talked to a group of girls who looked to be about 15 or 16. They all thought that they were good, and when Tony and I asked them if they lied, stolen, blasphemed, and all of the rest, they admitted it. After being confronted with the evidence of their guilt, they did admit that they’d go to hell if today was the day they died. Two girls in the group of 5 were visibly convicted about it. Their mouths were stopped, they weren’t justifying their actions; they knew where they’d go. We told them the “second half” of the good news, which is the “cure for the disease” Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for their sins. We told them to think about what they’d heard, and to repent before it’s too late.
I learned a few tips and things for explaining the gospel while I was there. One good analogy I learned was this:
Me: “It’s not the fervency of your faith that is important as much as WHAT you put your faith into isn’t it? If you were about to jump out of an airplane that is going to crash, what would you grab and put on your back; the pillow, the blanket, or the parachute?
Them: The parachute!
Them: Because it’s the only thing that will save you!
Me: Right! In the same way; Jesus is the only thing that will save you, not Buddha, not Muhammad, nobody except Jesus.
I also learned another valuable lesson; how faithful a Christian really can be to spread the gospel. Being around brothers and sisters who are “sold-out” for God is a real “wake-up-call” to me. It makes me realize how lazy and slothful I am in my own life when it comes to sharing the good news. Here is an example: Saturday afternoon we stopped for dinner at a restaurant a few streets away from the festival. We had dinner and then as we were walking back to the festival, Neil saw a group of people 15 waiting in line to use an ATM at a bank. In obedience, he stopped and preached the good news to them. All in all it took 5 or 6 minutes of his life, and 15 people heard the gospel. When he was finished and thanked them for listening and we moved on.
My heart was convicted over this. Why am I not doing this? I asked Tony, a veteran seed-sower, if witnessing to a group of people at an ATM was “normal” for him in his everyday life and he humbly said yes, when he sees a group of people he will stop and preach. He confessed that he does get butterflies and is afraid, but he does it anyway.
That’s a lesson for all of us. Obedience is not talk; obedience is action; even when we are afraid.
Sadly; I talked with many, many people who were professing Christians, who were drinking beer and many were visibly drunk and some couldn’t even form a sentence, they were so wasted! And all the while thinking they’d go to heaven because they “confessed their sins!”
This is so deceptive! The idea that you “confess with your mouth” and ask Jesus to be your savior; you’re good to go. These people believe themselves to be saved! Why? Because someone told them that all they had to do was “confess,” or “believe,” or “make Jesus their savior.” Not one person I talked to the whole time had any idea what repentance was!
We are sending people to HELL. Can we stop? This message of “easy-believism” is giving people a false sense of security where none exists.
Can we just stop that?? God is the one who converts the human soul! He does it through the preaching of the word! He uses the Law of God to convict, and convert the human heart. Can we just quit giving people a false hope so it’s just that much harder to give them the real truth? The gospel is a hard message, not a “candy-coated-come-on.”
The preaching went on until about 10:00 pm when everyone was exhausted. We ended the night by passing out tracts until the police sent us packing.
I left Sunday after church, and the rest of the group stayed to go on to preach at two colleges in Virginia Monday and Tuesday.
All in all, it was great! What a privilege to serve God by spreading His gospel!
God bless this dear brother for his service on that day, and may the Lord continue to use him as a fisher of men.
Ps: kind of funny/sad to see that the Episcopal church, which is the Anglican church in Canada, behaves pretty much the same way in both countries... that is, abominably.