Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Does street preaching make you cringe?

A few weeks ago I asked what you thought when you saw someone preaching the Gospel on the street, perhaps with a microphone or a megaphone. I have done this quite a few times over the years myself (without a megaphone). A while ago my wife and I joined a great team of people from the School of World Evangelism for a day of outreach. We positioned ourselves in a very prominent place in the Town of Caerphilly, near Cardiff on a sunny Saturday afternoon as part of an evangelistic open air. I know that some people call this type of event “Cringe Factor Evangelism”. I do have to admit that at times I have felt the same when I have been out shopping and heard someone shouting at the top of their voice about hell, sin and condemnation.
I have to say though, that if this type of evangelistic endeavour is done well, people do come to Christ through it. But much more importantly than that, being led by the spirit to do it makes a huge difference; after all it is God who gives the increase. I fully appreciate this type of evangelism is not everyone’s cup of tea. I have a friend that went on the streets every Saturday for three years without fail, initially with a colleague, and eventually ended up carrying on alone. People do need to hear the gospel somehow.

In his book “Evangelism By Fire” Reinhard Bonnke says “Meanwhile people are dying. Isn’t that enough reason to preach the Gospel”? I know Christians that love evangelising in this way right through to others who are vehemently against it. When I think about it, my mind is always drawn to the scripture: 

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe”. 1 Corinthians 1:21. I am certain that some of the passer’s by that day thought that we were indeed foolish.
For a period of the outreach I stood handing out leaflets and chatted to people as they passed by. It is true to say that some people definitely did not like what was going on as the name of Jesus was lifted up through preaching, testifying and worship songs. For the 90 minutes or so that we were there we received a varied number of reactions and responses. First of all, lets go through some of the reactions. A few people shouted abuse as they went by, some laughed while others pulled confused expressions on their faces. A young man was on his mobile phone as he walked by and shouted to the person on the phone “Can you hear that”? laughing as he walked off. Others looked a little irritated by it. Quite a few people looked stunned because they had not seen the like for many years.
Before moving on, motivational speaker and Christian Zig Ziglar gives a simple explanation of the difference between a reaction and a response. If you imagine for a moment that a person was very sick in hospital and they were being treated by a medical team who were administering some form of medicine or drugs. A close and worried relative is in attendance and asks the Doctor in charge how things are going. If the reply the relative received was “The patient is reacting to the treatment” it generally means that is it not a good thing and something is wrong. However if the reply was “ The patient is responding to the treatment”, it means that it is a good thing. Based on that, you may well think that the reactions we got were not good. Well, I will cover that shortly.
Getting back to the outreach. Some of the responses we had were really encouraging. Quite a number of people stopped to listen, a few for a minute or two, while others stayed for much longer. Some people were prayed for on the street as they needed healing in their bodies. Others came to an evening outreach meeting as a result of being invited on the street. One lady heard the preaching while she was in her garden, and came to the church with her friend. They had both previously had followed the Lord and had fallen away, they asked for prayer and recommitted their lives to Christ, had prayer for healing and literally bounced out the church full of joy. They returned that evening as well. On the street a young lady who desperately needed to be set free from the bondage of drug addiction gave her life to Christ and is now in the process of joining a Christian drug rehabilitation centre. At the evening service the Lord moved powerfully and touched many lives.
I was taught that there are many ways to reach people with the Gospel, and I am a believer that sometimes people come to Christ through things like friendship evangelism, while others need to be confronted with the Gospel. It was certainly true in my own case. Being told straight that I was lost and was headed to hell really affected me. In fact when I was told that, I reacted to it. I got angry and wanted an argument. But the thing was that the seed was sewn in my heart. It took a while to germinate, but I am glad that I was spoken to in that way. My point is that the Holy Spirit guides us when we witness one to one or in a group as we were that day in Caerphilly. He brings scriptures to remembrance and He can tell us how to communicate the message. You may think it is a cliche when people say the God isn’t interested in our ability, but rather in our availability.
If we make ourselves available to God, pray for boldness and do what we perhaps fear. Be that street preaching, handing out tracts through to witnessing one to one. It can be a bit nerve wracking.

My boss used to say “When you do what you fear, the fear will disappear. My heart always beats a little quicker when I am handed a microphone on the street. But then I remember what Paul said in Romans 10 : 14: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
You may agree or disagree with what I have said. In either case I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

God can use a young Christian to win a man for Christ.

This is an excerpt from my new book " A Fall From The Top" which should be available this Autumn. This short piece shows how God can use a young Christian as a witness for him. I hope it inspires you to do the same.

I must say that during my life I believe that I have only met one or two real atheists. I have met a number of people who say they are athiesitic, but in fact the truth is that they are really agnostics. In other words, they are not really sure what they believe, or sometimes they even avoid talking about eternal matters such as life after death because of fear. I heard someone say some time ago that a true atheist is a person who reads and studies the Bible, and does the same with books on evolution, Darwinism and other theories, after which, they make a solid decision to not believe Gods word. The people I am speaking of may have read 'Chariots of the Gods' or similar books but have not taken the time to read the bible. You can in my opinion only become a true atheistic person by thoroughly reading and studying the scriptures and then many of the opposing theories. This would then be followed by making a reasoned decision on what they choose to believe.

In our first couple of years as christians my wife’s parents had some married friends that they used to meet with. The wife was a follower of Christ, whereas the husband actually was a real atheist and had done all of what I have already stated. In fact, he had read the bible from cover to cover on a number of occasions. He had a strong interest in science and was well versed in writings on evolution and similar theories. Although our beliefs were very different we got on well.

Through our conversations I learned that he had experienced a difficult childhood. A tragedy occurred when his twin brother died in a house fire while he managed to escape. His mother eventually left the home as she was unable to cope. This made him very hard and he would attempt to disprove the gospel at pretty much any opportunity. We met a number of times over the period of about a year or so. Always within a short time we would be in deep discussions and debates. On a couple of occasions these debates got quite heated with raised voices.

We would have a verbal tennis match where he would say things like “There is no evidence that God exists”. I would reply “Just look at creation” and give lots examples of how the world had to be designed just like the seed example I gave earlier in this book. I would say, “Take for instance the human lung, I have read that if you were to lay one out with all its parts and sections it would fill a tennis court”. He would agree that it was right but would put it down to the big bang theory or something similar. He would say that “God doesn’t exist”. I would explain “Well the bible says you are a fool”. Proverbs 14.1 The fool says in his heart there is no God (NIV).

These types of heated exchanges would often go on for ages. It is quite amusing when I think back about it because we actually used to look forward to meeting so that we could have another go at each other.

One day we were in my mother-in-law's kitchen having another very heated discussion, when he said confidently, “Do you know that there is only chromosome less in a monkey than there is in man”? I answered “Yes I do”. He carried on “So that must prove the apes evolved into human beings”. I thought about what he had said for a few seconds and replied “I will tell you why there is one less
chromosome in a monkey. It is because God made it that way”. He stared at me and said nothing for a few moments and we then carried on our talking.

A few weeks later I heard that he had actually started attending church with his wife and had become a Christian. I didn’t put it down to anything that I had said, and just rejoiced in the wonderful news. We lost contact with him for a while, until one day he turned up on our doorstep with a colleague from his church. He was now involved in an evangelistic team working in the Welsh valleys and was sold out for God. Fantastic I thought.
We sat in my lounge and I asked the question “Tell me, what happened to make you want to go to church and accept Christ”? He replied, “Do you remember the time when we were in your mother-in-law's kitchen and I talked to you about the chromosome difference between a man and a monkey”?. “Yes” I replied. He continued, “Well, what you said about God designing a monkey wouldn’t go away. So that evening at home I got out my bible and started to read it within a short time I realised that the Bible was true and I gave my life to Christ”.

Talk about make my day! God used me with my inexperience, my conviction and a few simple scriptures that reached this mans heart. It still amazes me that God uses me. The great news is He can use you too.

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Thursday, 17 March 2011

Should I witness for Christ in my workplace?

Do you witness where you work? I know some people who do so on a regular basis and others who never do. This question often comes up when I conduct one to one evangelism training sessions. It is quite a big subject, so what follows is a brief summary.

Key Point: We are employed to do a job and not use our employer’s time to witness

There are many reasons why we should be keen to witness on the job. In the case of where we work though, there is a very important consideration. As employees, we basically promise to give our employers our best efforts for the times we are employed. It is only right that Christians should keep this commitment.

I must confess though, that there have been times when I haven’t done that in the past. In fact I couldn’t wait to get amongst people so I could tell them about Jesus. As Christians, we should be model employees  because when we work wholeheartedly it adds credibility to our words when the opportunity to share arises. Please remember the following four points in regard to being a witness for Christ.

Jesus commanded it: During Jesus’ last moments on the earth after He was resurrected, He could have said anything. There was great importance to what He did say because He told the disciples that they were to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. That is a command for us as well. Jesus also said in the Gospels,

“If you love me, you will obey My commands.” John 14: 15

We must remember that it’s our duty: We have been redeemed by Christ, which means we have been given something that is not our own. Without God’s amazing grace we would be lost for all eternity. It’s probably likely that most of us came to Christ because someone shared with us or invited us to church. Apparently, over 90% of professing Christians came to faith through a personal witness, or by simply being invited to church by someone they knew. How can we not do the same for others?

Real gratitude should move us to: An attitude of gratitude is what marks a true believer in Jesus Christ. As we recognise how great the forgiveness that was and is extended to us, the more we are thankful to God for redeeming us. One very simple way that we can thank God is to explain to others about His great love and mercy.

Time is extremely short: Jesus’ return to the earth is imminent. We don’t know the day or the hour; we just know He could be here any minute, as we are reminded in the story of the ten virgins; only some of them were ready with their lamps trimmed and with plenty of oil so that they could wait for the bridegroom. Like them, we must be ready as well, but we can’t forget the ones who aren’t ready, or the ones who don’t know that they need to be ready for anything.

How many people really know about Christ’s return to the earth? Who is going to tell them?
Do you make an effort to witness in your workplace?

How do we witness at work? Well, there is the “quiet” testimony. It is the one that speaks volumes, with no words at all. It involves being a loyal and faithful employee, not bad mouthing our company, bosses or our co-workers.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Colossians 3:23

If you have a Christian boss, you may be allowed to witness on the job. It is a truly great thing when you are able to lead a co-worker to Christ.

Another way is our ability to handle work stress and treat others with kindness and patience, which will make us stand out from others. When others notice our attitudes, they will often comment on it, giving us the opportunity to explain whom we really serve and how He has impacted our lives. In other words, we need to “walk the walk” in order to “talk the talk.”  To share our faith, we must always be ready to give an answer when we respond to their comments.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

We need to understand the importance of this scripture:

 “Let the Word of God dwell in (us) richly in all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16

Finally, pray for God to open up opportunities to share Christ with others, also pray for boldness and words in season. You will then discover those “divine appointments” with people whose hearts have been prepared by the Lord to receive the good news from us.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A very different way of reaching the lost that worked

I was speaking to a very good friend of mine the other day on the telephone regarding different ways to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ. While we were having our chat we both quoted the same scripture simultaneously from 2 Corinthians 9: 22-23 where Paul says: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings”. Our conversation made me remember a method of evangelism that another good friend used sometime ago which proved to be very effective. Now this idea may or may not be for you, but people were won to Christ through it. What do you think?

The friend I speak of is the Pastor of a thriving church in the Midlands area of Great Britain. His fellowship is blessed with a number of quality musicians who have a real heart for God and leading the church into the presence of the Lord. As a
result of that the worship is very good there.

The leadership were led by the Holy Spirit and a decision made to run music tuition classes every Saturday morning as a form of outreach to the local community. At the sessions people were taught how to play keyboards, guitars, bass guitars and drums. The classes were well attended by young people from the locality. After some weeks a number of the students were invited to play in the worship band at Sunday morning and evening services. When my friend told me this some months after this happened, I suppose I got a little religious because I felt that it was not the norm. Well, certainly not in my own fellowship anyway. I was taught that only people that knew Christ could be in the worship team. I remember saying “Oh, I don’t know how our church would feel about doing something like that”. The answer I got back surprised me. He replied “Well I baptised four drummers last week”. Wow! Since then more young people have given their lives to Jesus, Even some when I had the privilege of speaking there.

God is so good. At those meetings attendance numbers increased dramatically as family members came along to watch the young people play. Those people came under the sound of the Gospel, in the worship, and the preaching of Gods word. I believe that the number of newcomers was better than some other forms of outreach that had been
used in the past.
Now, I am not a pastor of a church, but I do my best to do the work of an evangelist. But in my own religious attitude at the time, if I was leading a church, it would have been very likely indeed that I would have been against the idea. The simple reason being, that it didn’t quite fit in with the way that I had been taught in the past. Now you may think this idea doesn’t even seem slightly radical to you as you read this. But the honest truth is, to me at the time, it was. If
you asked me the question today, “Do you think the end result justified the means”? My answer would be a definite “Yes”.
The question is then. What would your answer be? Let me know what you think?

Friday, 4 March 2011

Does being trained to share the good news help?

When I first became a Christian, I was a bit of embarrassment to my then unsaved wife Desiree. She would tell you herself that she thought I had “lost it”. I was under massive pressure at the time, but in it all I had the joy and realisation of what Christ had done for me at Calvary in my heart. The thing was that I wanted those people who I knew to have the same experience as me. God is good and through my bumbling one to one preaching, family members and friends came to know Jesus as their saviour.

I suppose my career of speaking and training helped me somewhat in what I had to say. But I am very thankful to the Holy Spirit who used me and my obvious enthusiasm as I tried to explain what had happened when I met Jesus. Thankfully now I am able to make a better job of it through practice and experience. I still love and enjoy sharing Jesus as much as I did many years ago.

I meet many Christians who don’t share their faith on a regular basis. I have discovered that are a number of reasons for this. I will mention just a three of them:

Fear: Some people are just scared of messing up, or are worried about offending people.

Witnessing is for leaders and evangelists: Well anyone who thinks that
will be certainly mistaken. We are not all called to be evangelists, but we are
all commanded to be witnesses for Christ.

They don’t know how to present the Gospel: Well people can learn how to
present the gospel easily with a little time and practice.

We are not in the process of selling Jesus Christ, but having a well prepared plan with a prayerful attitude asking the Holy Spirit for guidance and help will produce amazing results. After all it is the Lord who gives the increase.

I have heard that over 90% of professing Christians don’t share their faith on a regular basis. If that is true, then that is a concern.

What percentage do you fall into?
If you fall into the larger group, perhaps your reasons are listed above or you have your own. Jesus said “Come follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men”. It’s a promise isn’t it? He said “He will make us”. If we are following Him, then it makes sense that we should be doing
some fishing doesn’t it?
My boss from years ago used to say “Do what you fear, and the fear will disappear” It’s a true statement indeed.  Recently, I ran an evangelism training course in a small church. On the last day we went out onto the streets to speak to people. Some of those who attended the course were a little fearful at the thought of doing something like this. Well, that day two older ladies invited some people to a gospel meeting that evening. They accepted Christ when an invitation was given. They are now regular attendees of the fellowship and are in the process of being discipled. Those older ladies are now out on the streets in their community every week as well as witnessing one to one. Their faith level has risen dramatically!
I would say that it's a good thing to have a well prepared plan, and even better that that the Holy Spirit with you as you witness, rather than to do nothing at all. What do you think?