Category Archives: The Gospel in Don Mills

“What I’m Offering You Is a Steak!”

The following post was written by my good friend, Alex Philip. Below he gives an encouraging account of a couple of conversations he had this past Friday night. 

On Friday, I joined Paul for an evening of evangelism.  Paul asked if I would take the lead with another brother from Westminster.  I was filled with gladness when this other brother walked into the Tim Hortons: I had taught this young man almost five years ago when he was in grades 10 and 11.  Today, he is deliberately seeking to honour Jesus by declaring his gospel to others.

Thanks be to God, we had a fruitful evening with many meaningful and pleasant conversations.  There are too many to list in a blog post.  Two, though, stick out.  The first was with a couple of young men who were clearly heading out for a night of revelry.  We approached them with outstretched hands.  They refused to reciprocate, insisting instead that we tell them what we were selling…

“We’re not selling anything.  We’re giving something away.”

“And what’s that?”

“The opportunity to know that your sins can be forgiven through Jesus Christ.”

The more vocal of the two laughed jeeringly and heartily, saying, “I knew you were pedalling religion.”  He continued, “Tell you what, we’re on our way to pick up smokes and then we’re heading back to my apartment where we have a couple of girls…”  He proceeded to invite us back to his apartment to join them in their activities.

Realizing that time was short before he and his friend walked away, we declined his invitation saying, “What you’ve offered me is a marshmallow.  What I’m offering you is a steak.” He thought the response was funny and retorted, “Okay, you got me.  I’ll take what you’re giving away.”

We gave him a gospel tract and before leaving, he finally did shake our hands and give us his name. The last thing I saw was him reading the tract as he headed towards the store to pick up his smokes.

Later on that evening, Kathy and I had a long and meaningful conversation with a young girl who was spending the evening sitting on a bench, listening to her iPod. She was attentive and receptive to the gospel to the point that we were able to present the gospel to her twice.  Once from the Bible and the second time from the 2 Ways to Live booklet.  At the end of our conversation, we invited her to place her trust in Jesus Christ.

She expressed a sincere concern for the countless number of people who would never hear what she had just heard.  Gently, we tried to respond biblically to her concern.  We had the opportunity to pray with her on the street corner and she indicated that she would like to come to church.  Please pray that she would come and be converted and then enter into fellowship with Christians.

I Asked Him, “What Do You Think of Jesus Christ?”

On Friday night I was at the bus stops at Lawrence and Don Mills with fellow workers (from New City Baptist and Westminster Chapel). Meeting much  indifference and hostility made it a sobering night. What follows is a short summary of one of those meetings.

I went up to a big guy who looked around 50. I opened my mouth and said, “Sir, I have a question for you,” and with a gentle smile, “but just to warn you, it’s a serious one.” He looked at me, waiting to hear what it was. “What do you think of Jesus Christ?” With much anger and resistance he said, “Not much.” I quickly responded, “Why?” With more emotion now and added volume, he said, “No more questions! You had one. That’s enough. Thank you.” We stood there silently for a bit. He looked very angry. I said, “Have a good night.” He replied, “You too.” I walked away.

Phil and I reflected on the exchange as we walked. Phil said, “That shouldn’t surprise us; people hate Jesus. The Scriptures are clear about this. Who knows the hypocrisy he’s seen in his life? But, either way, people hate God.” Afterwards, Phil prayed for him.

Let me pray for this man again. Father, please cause that man to reflect on my question, “Why?” Please put that question to his heart: “Why don’t I think much of Jesus?” If it’s because of the sinful conduct of Christians, please help him to see the foolishness of rebelling against Jesus because of what someone else has done. May he see that Jesus is always good. Lord, have mercy on him!

Nick Speaks of Jesus on the Streets: The Story and the Lesson

Nick is the lead worshipper at GFC Don Mills, but more importantly, he deeply loves Jesus and is committed to following him.  Below he shares a really cool story about his experience of speaking about Jesus when he came out with me two weeks ago.

Friday night

Paul, Ricardo and I went out on Friday night to speak to people about Jesus. As is Paul’s custom, we walked around different bus stops to speak with anyone who was willing. We had a few good conversations but one that stood out to us was with a young man. Let’s call him Tim though that’s not his real name.

We met a man at the bus stop

Paul and I approached Tim (Ricardo stayed behind to pray) and told him what we were all about. We introduced ourselves by name and informed him that we were members at a church in the area and wanted to speak with people about Jesus. Paul began by asking him if he had any religious background. He told us that his mom was a Christian but he characterized her devotion as “moderate”.

Asking questions

Then Paul asked Tim about himself a little bit. “What are you doing?” Paul said. He responded by telling us that he was on his way home from work. Paul continued, “What kind of work do you do?” “Customer service,” Tim responded. At that point I broke my way into the conversation. “Do you get yelled at a lot?” I asked. “Yeah,” Tim laughed. I pushed the conversation a little further, “In this line of work do you see how messed up people can be?”

So began our conversation.

People are messed up

Tim agreed that some people are indeed messed up; but then he said that some people aren’t all that bad. In fact, he said that some people are good. In some ways Tim was right. People are made in the image of God and they do retain some of the good-ness that God created us with; but I told Tim that it’s interesting that you usually never meet anyone who thinks they are bad themselves. It is usually “other people” who are the problem.  He agreed at that point and said, “Yeah, we tend toward an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.” I wanted him to see that “we” are all part of the problem and not just “them,” so I asked him, “Tim if the world was filled with people just like you, do you think that all the world’s problems would disappear?” He said, “Probably not.”

The story of the Bible and its climax

I proceeded to tell Tim the story of the Bible and the climax of that story. It went something like this: Our world has been utterly destroyed by sin and we need a King who can put the world right. God promised that one day he would send his King and this is exactly what we read about in the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus came into the world, in fulfilment of God’s promises, pushing back against sin and all of its effects. That’s why we see him healing diseases, forgiving sins, calming storms, casting out demons and even raising the dead. Jesus eventually died on the cross and rose again so that we ourselves could be forgiven of our sin and included in God’s kingdom. One day Jesus will return and make everything right. The thing about it, though, is if God is going to make the world right and rid the world of sin something has to be done about us. That means either forgiveness or judgement.”

The challenge

Afterwards, Paul challenged Tim. He asked him what he thought about this and if he ever thinks about these things. Tim told us honestly that he has always been indifferent to Jesus. He said that he’s indifferent towards a lot of things.

Our conversation continued for a while (he let three buses go by while we were speaking). He asked some good questions regarding the centrality of God and the importance of the gospel of Luke (We had copies that we were giving out). We let him know that the gospel tells the story of Jesus and is a good place to start but that the entire bible is God’s inspired word. Paul even had the chance to speak with him about Genesis 1-3.

This was an encouraging encounter. Tim was interested, open and honest. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again but I hope that he bows his knee to King Jesus and is welcomed into the life of the age to come.  Pray for him.

Five lessons learned:

1)      Talking about Jesus brings us joy: As I was speaking to Tim about Jesus I found that I myself was getting excited about Jesus. I began thinking, “Wow! This really is good news!”

2)      Seeing the gospels as the Gospel makes Christianity incredibly relevant to people:  There are many stories in the gospels about all sorts of people from all sorts of different walks of life. In Tony’s case he works in customer service. This is a career where one is continually yelled at and made to feel small. There are plenty of stories in the gospels about people who are “made to feel small” and how Jesus meets those people where they are. Ultimately, we see how Jesus came into the world to bring God’s kingdom and solve the systemic problem of sin that causes all the problems we encounter.

3)      Just be yourself and talk about Jesus: Evangelistic “schemes” can be incredibly helpful at times (I know I’ve benefited from them at times) but it’s important to just be yourself. We are talking to human beings not robots. Talk to people where they are at and then talk about Jesus. You don’t need a PhD in Missions to do that. Although evangelism can be hard work at times it can also be really fun when we are ourselves.

4)      Pray: God is in control and can soften people’s hearts. We need to plead with God that he would do just that and that he would lead us to those whom he wills.

5)      Worship: Evangelism is worship. Whether you experience a Tim or a person who wants nothing to do with you God is glorified when Jesus is proclaimed.

What Are You Living For?

One month ago marked our first Friday evening on the streets for the fall. John and Sidney, from Westminster Chapel, joined me for what turned out to be a very encouraging evening. But there was one conversation in particular that I’d like to share with you.

We met two young teenage girls close to the bus stops. It was great to hear Sidney share the gospel with them. The girls listened to her speak of Christ. Sidney told them why Jesus came and about the forgiveness and life that he offers. She did an excellent job sharing the good news about Jesus.

And how did the girls respond? Well, they just looked at us smiling and giggling. They seemed terribly awkward and unsure of how to respond. We thought we’d try to ease the awkwardness by asking questions, hoping that two-way discussion would blossom. Their answers were quick and simple; and they kept giggling. One of the girls knew a little bit about Christianity. She said she’d been to a Christian youth event with her relative. The other girl did not seem to know much about the faith.

I sensed they were just waiting for the conversation to end, but not because they were angry; they just didn’t know why this stuff was important. And it was a Friday night! Why talk to strangers about Jesus? Sounds a little weird. I sensed the need to cut right to the heart. We were real people talking to real people about a real Judge and Saviour! We were talking about stuff that really mattered. So, I cut to the chase and interjected: “What are you living for?”

The one girl looked at me, thought for a moment and said, “High school.” I said, “Why?” She said, “To go to University.” I said, “And I’m assuming in University, you’ll live to do some more schooling; but what for?” She said, “To get a job.” And then I said, “You’ll get a job and then you’ll live to find a husband. And then you’ll live for your kids and your work. Then you live for your kids to go to University. And then you live for your retirement and then you’ll die.” They were silent and listened closely.

I pleaded with them, “Look nothing is more important than Jesus Christ. He said that one day you will stand before him and give an account of your whole life; and all that matters is how you’ve responded to him. That’s pretty serious stuff. It’s not the kind of stuff you should put off. Take your Bible and read the four Gospels that are all about Jesus. Look into these things. Don’t put it off.”

We said our goodbyes, but I couldn’t help feeling utterly refreshed and sobered by getting to heart of things. When we’re out on the streets talking to people, we’re talking to real people about a real living Saviour. Let’s get real and talk, not religion class style, just trying to get the answer right. Let’s talk about what we’re really living for; and why living for the Lord Jesus Christ is all that matters.

Day 21: Let Me Be Clear

Just over a month ago marked the final day of our summer street evangelism. The Lord gave me a wonderful gift: a long conversation with a teenager who had taken a break from his skateboarding. He was relaxing in the shade and seemed open to talking. We talked for a long time about a number of things, but I can still remember how we transitioned to talk about spiritual things. You see, though I’m usually very direct from the outset with what I’d like to speak about (Jesus), this time I wasn’t. I just asked him questions about him; first about skateboarding and then, as the conversation took many twists and turns.

Often times people love talking about themselves, so I just kept asking him questions and got to know him pretty quickly. I learned of his passion and love for art. We talked about art for a while. I couldn’t help but ask him about beauty. How is it that we can appreciate it? Where does it come from? So I asked, “Have you ever thought much about where beauty comes from? I’m a Christian and I really appreciate the beauty in our world. I think it reflects the beautiful mind of the One who created it. What do you think?”

He acknowledged a higher power and embraced some elements of a theistic worldview, but his understanding of Jesus was certainly minimal and incorrect. I shared a bunch of Scripture with him and tried to explain the Gospel to him, but as we conversed, I noticed that I kept having to say, “Oh, well let be clear; I’m not sure if I was clear enough earlier, but …” The main truth that he didn’t seem to get was sin. I had been trying to teach him that we are so sinful that we cannot redeem ourselves; that we’re in need of total repair by someone else; that we’re guilty, evil and without hope in the world and in utter need of a Saviour.

He was a very agreeable person. He seemed to agree with everything I said! It’s tough to share the Gospel with people like this (but may God help us!).  When I asked him questions to check his comprehension one thing became increasingly clear, he didn’t really agree with me. Maybe I wasn’t clear. Maybe he was distracted. Maybe he’s not a good thinker. Maybe it’s just the blinding effects of sin. Maybe he’s so steeped in relativism that he can agree with the truth and yet disagree at the same time! I don’t know. But the main thing I can remember from that conversation was having to say, “Let me be clear.”

I was deeply impressed by the difficulty of ministering to the Agreeables. They just agree with you. But do they really? I doubt it.

One of the lessons I learned from that conversation, and that I have seen many times in evangelism, is the need to ask repeat direct questions of the people we’ve preached to. For example, you can talk to a guy about righteousness, sin, guilt, judgement and grace and it may seem that he has an understanding of some of these core truths. You can tell him that salvation by works (or even grace + works) is insufficient (and only further condemns!). And he might agree with you. But then ask him, “So, if you were to die today, do you think God will accept you or reject you?” And what will you hear him say? Sadly, and too often, “I think he will accept me.” And you can follow up, “Why?” Sadly, and too often (at least, among the people I speak too), you’ll hear these words, “We’ll, God knows I trying to be a good person, and he’s forgiving.”

May the Spirit give understanding and conviction! And may He give us endurance to keep preaching! God can save Agreeables! But may He give us wisdom to show them what they really don’t agree with. Direct questions (even if repeated many times) can help.

Day 20: Laughed At

Our second last day of summer evangelism wasn’t without challenges. Ricardo and I sought to speak with a young lady waiting for her bus. I told her who we were, where we were from and that we were out sharing the Gospel. She instantly felt awkward and started laughing. I encouraged her that these are important conversations to have. By God’s grace she was too nice to dismiss us. She engaged in a conversation that ended up recruiting a small measure of mockery (and some more laughing).

What follows is an abbreviated summary of what happened.  Y refers to the lady; P refers to me; and M refers to another lady who joined in.

P: What do you think of Jesus?

Y: I don’t know. (And looking at me as though this was a silly question).

P: Well, what do you know of him? Surely you have thoughts of some kind.

Y: Well, I don’t really believe in God.

P: Why do you hold to atheism?

Y: I just grew up with it and I’ve always believed it.

P: Well, in light of the world we observe, do you think it’s a more reasonable position?

Y: I don’t know.

P: Do you believe in the big bang?

Y: Yes.

P: Well, why do you opt for order coming from chaos over the idea that God created everything with order?

Y: Well, I’m not saying it’s impossible. I just don’t believe.

P: Well, have you ever read the Bible?

Y: Not really. But the Bible is not reliable.

P: Why do you think that?

Y: It was written by men.

P: So you’re saying it’s corrupted because it was written by men and men make mistakes?

Y: Yes.

P: But think about this: you are a person. So how do you know you’re not making a mistake in your judgement of the Bible. You said men make mistakes. (She seemed to understand my argument and her body language indicated that she conceded).

P: And surely it wouldn’t be too hard for an all powerful God to keep his Word pure, even through men. (She agreed on this theoretically).

P: The Bible is trustworthy and it clearly teaches that God created the world out of nothing, that he created everything good and that we are the ones who’ve messed up the world. We’ve sinned by disobeying God’s commands. And now we’re not good. And that’s why we feel guilt.  You ever feel guilt?

Y: Yes (smiling with the look of, “Why are you talking about this?”).

P: Me too. You know, the reason we feel guilt is because we have it. It’s that simple. It’s real, but that’s the very reason why God sent Jesus into the world. You know about the Cross? How Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead? The reason he came to do that was to save us.

Y: Wow. This is intense. (smiling)

M:  (Shouting from about 12 feet away, and with all manner of mockery), “What Jesus are you talking about?”

P: (I looked over at her and was silent for a few seconds, and with firmness I said back to her) The Jesus of Scripture that even non-Christians and liberal Bible scholars don’t deny existed.

(Though M was silenced, Y and M were now both laughing with each other at me).

P: (speaking to Y) Look, the reason we’re out talking to people is because these things matter and we care for you. Thank you for taking the time to let us speak to you. Take care.

At that moment Y walked over to M and the two became friends. We could overhear them laughing together and M saying how she needed to “save” Y from me.

By the grace of God, Ricardo and I prayed for them. And by the grace of God we truly considered ourselves blessed. But I really felt opposed spiritually. I felt little and despised by people. I was laughed at. I felt, in the smallest measure, something of what my Saviour felt. And it was good.

Day 19: I Blew It!

Exactly a month ago, I was at a bus stop talking to an elderly man about God. He told me that he’s not really into the Bible but that he’s got his own version of God (and that he’s quite comfortable with that). He was a kind man and quite fond of God’s kindness to him. Let me explain.

God’s kindness

He assured me that he’s on good terms with God. He told me about a couple of serious accidents that he endured and, with God’s help, fully recovered from. He acknowledged that it was God who kept him and helped him recover. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t need God’s mercy; God’s smile was upon him.

Time for me to speak

I listened to him for a while. And after he shared, I sensed the boldness of God to share some words from Jesus. I wanted to share what Jesus said about God being kind to the wicked. Indeed, God’s kindness is not a full proof indication that one is on good terms with God. So I told him, “You know what, everything you’re sharing makes me think of a passage of Scripture I read recently. It’s in Luke’s Gospel. Just one second. Let me find it.” (I pulled out my Bible and starting flipping around in Luke). I stood there searching and searching and searching. I keep telling him, I’m gonna find it; just one minute. This went on and on and on. No joke, I think at least 3 minutes passed! I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t find it! Where is that verse! The bus came. We said our good bye’s and that was it. I didn’t tell him anything!

I blew it!

I had the perfect chance to speak the Word of Christ into his life, but I didn’t have it memorized; and worse, I couldn’t find the address! I failed. This is especially bad because I had been struck by these words of Christ just beforehand and assumed I’d remember them! Bad assumption. So afterwards, I found the passage, and drilled it into my head, saying over and over (aloud), “Luke 6:35, 6:35, 6:35!”

In Luke 6:35, Jesus says of God, “he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Those are some pretty startling words to deal with. You should memorize this reference with me. Countless unbelievers appeal to God’s kindness to them as an indication that they are certainly in his good books. Well, though they may think this way, Jesus certainly doesn’t. God is kind to all. Assurance of being in his good books must be determined another way.

But the lesson to be learned here is this: memorize the reference!

Though I blew it, I know that man’s eternal welfare doesn’t hinge on my performance. May the Lord be kind to him with the loving-kindness of salvation.

Day 18, by Yosef: Youth Encounter

Yosef, a faithful brother and member at Westminster Chapel, has been co-labouring with us in the gospel periodically this summer. It’s always a great joy to have him work with us. Below he shares about a really neat experience he had preaching the gospel to a bunch of teenagers at Shops at Don Mills. 

A group of five teenagers were hanging out by the mall. My heart went out for them and, excited, we approached them and asked, “Can I ask you guys an interesting question?” “Sure,” they replied. “What do you think happens after you die?” “Oh, you go to heaven!” replied the youngest of a group of Filipinos who, soon we would discover, were exposed to Catholicism. So we began digging together around their misconceptions, and asked, “Everyone?!” He answered, “Well, only those who are good.” From there, using Jesus’ interpretation of the commandments (Matthew 5), we took some time to show them that no one is good according to God’s standards.

While three of them were showing signs of interest and understanding, others remained silent, indicating they were either contemplative (maybe convicted) or simply disinterested. Overall, they seemed to show a partial understanding of what Jesus has done. They seemed ignorant to the deep offense of sin against a pure, blameless and holy Judge. After we thoroughly explained the gospel and challenged them to give their lives to Jesus – to which they responded with stifled faces – we decided to let them dwell on it. Rony and I left them with some tracks, played with their skateboards to show friendliness, and parted ways. Our prayers are that God would preserve the seed planted in these young people’s lives and give growth to their faith. May they, like us, be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Amen.

Day 17: No Report

I got into the bad habit of not taking notes sometimes this summer. This wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t wait close to a month to report what happened! When this happens I usually rely on my notes to jog my memory.

Well, as for Day 17, all I have recorded is “talked to a guy from Bangladesh [and] Catholic girl.” Unfortunately, I have no recall of those conversations. So I have nothing to report. Sorry. I’m taking my little notebook and pen with me this Friday … and I’m actually going to use them!

Please pray for us as we hit the streets!

Day 16, by Rony: We Were Worldviews Apart

Rony was our intern at GFC this summer. He is a faithful brother who served (and continues to serve) GFC in many ways. Though he’s currently working on his MA, he knows how to do more than research. Below he shares his experience doing street evangelism in Don Mills about a month ago.

We Were World-Views Apart

About a month ago a friend of mine and I began talking to a young to middle-aged man. We spoke for around an hour, if not more. We were/are world-views apart. Here are four examples:

He believes that there is some divine force, but that all religions are man made. I believe that there is an eternal and triune God who has revealed himself in His Word.

He believes that Jesus did not claim to be God, but was merely pointing people to God. I believe that Jesus claimed to be (and is) God incarnate.

He believes that Paul misunderstood, misrepresented, and distorted Jesus. I believe that Paul rightly understood Jesus and preached accurately about Jesus.

He believes that we are all gods. I believe that I am not a god, but rather a sinful mortal man.

We are worlds apart. We have very different world-views and there was very little that we agreed on theologically or philosophically. This man had, according to his report, done his own research. He had studied the various religious systems and come to his own conclusion.

Two Reflections

1) You can do lots of research and be very wrong. Of course it is good to study. It is good to do research and to investigate truth claims in order to adequately assess them. But simply because a person has “done the research” does not mean that they have necessarily come to the right conclusions. This man may have done his research, but he is (in my opinion) still very wrong and perhaps even further confirmed in his error by his research.

2) What stood out most clearly to me was this man’s pride. He was so insistent on his own way. Of course, pride is not simply being confident or insistent upon a truth claim. It is rejecting God’s authority and ways and asserting yourself and your ways and boasting in your glory. Unlike the humble man, the proud man does not and cannot “tremble at God’s Word”  (Isaiah 66:2). Just as God has humbled countless proud people to submit to the authority of Jesus, so may he humble this proud man. As the humbled Nebuchadnezzar said, “those who walk in pride he is able to humble”, may God humble this man to likewise eat grass and be able to say the same.