Tag Archives: Rexdale

Dealing with Misconceptions: A Loving Service

In this post I will first share some thoughts on “dealing with misconceptions.” Thereafter, I will recap of a conversation I had with a young man on Tuesday.

Some Thoughts on Answering Objections, Love and Sincerity

Dealing with misconceptions is an essential element of Gospel ministry. Christians and non-Christians alike struggle to think rightly about God. Mr. Unbelief, Miss Skepticism, and Dr. Doubt are not wimps. They are not only powerful, but resilient and tough. They dominate unbelievers. Though under the death sentence, they seem to have a twisted kind of prevalence even in the lives of most believers (until execution). However, when the eyes or our faith catch a glimpse of “the commander of the army of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-15), we see that there is hope indeed. Jesus is mighty to defeat Mr. Unbelief and his associates. By the Word of his power, Jesus will cause his people to think rightly about him and his Father. May we never forget the words of Christ: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18b).

Misconceptions about God and his Gospel are from the gates the hell. What is amazing is that Jesus builds his church through his people (i.e., “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”). So, he works through us to do his will. Of course, it is preaching Christ and his Gospel which is our ultimate weapon of righteousness, but there is a place for defending the truth and answering objections (1 Peter 1:15; notice, this was written through Peter!).

Surely defending and preaching often go hand in hand. Whatever the case, let me cut to the point: it is loving to consider the interests of others. Why do I say that? Well, we are commanded: “love your neighbour as yourself.” And why do I say that? Well, here is the connection: some people are sincerely interested in hearing Christian answers to their objections (and questions). What an opportunity to lovingly serve them!

Sometimes, their sincerity may be masked with a form of arrogance (or some attitude which seems insincere). I think I have encountered this mask a few times this summer. At first, I thought I was dealing with insincere arrogance; but after a long dialogue, I learned that I was likely dealing with an authentic thinker with really good questions! Thus, we must be careful not to be over-confident in our initial assessment of people. We must love them and seek to serve them. Now, granted, not all questions are good questions. Even so, many are, and we need to lovingly interact with all objections and questions that come our way. We can also serve people by showing them the questions that they should be asking – and then by teaching them the answers that the Bible gives (i.e., What must I do to be saved?”).

When we meet people with objections (and questions), we can serve them by exposing any misconceptions they may have about the nature truth, God, man, sin and salvation. Now, this is not to say that true Christians have no misconceptions whatsoever, nor that we know all truth. But, this is to say that Scripture is the ultimate authority, and God has spoken clearly and plainly on many aspects of truth concerning himself, man, sin and salvation. On these issues we ought to speak and to reason with people. And we must always remember: our goal is to see Christ’s church built, not to win arguments. These are just some thoughts on “dealing with misconceptions.” These thoughts were initially stirred after a conversation I had this past Tuesday which I recap below.

What about the Bible? What about other Religions? What about . . .

John C. and I met a young man by giving him a coin with the 10 commandments on it. I quickly learned that he comes from a Catholic home (but that is not not devoted to his parent’s religion). At one point he said to me: “I believe that that Bible is not a book of rules.” I agreed, “You’re right, the Bible is not just a book of rules; it is the revelation of God. But, it does contain rules.” He replied, “The way I see it is that the Bible is more like a book of guidelines.” I asked him, “Have you read the whole Bible?” He said, “no.” I said, “Do you read the Bible?” He said, “no.” I said, “Then how can you claim to know what it is like? You do not even read it.” I think he followed my argument. I had tried to deal with his misconception about the Bible, but the conversation suddenly took a new spin.

Before I knew it, he had switched the topic and asked me, “Well, what about other religions. There are so many religions – how do we know which one to believe?” There are many different ways to respond to such a question. On this occasion, I told him to study. I said, “you have to study to find out which one is true.” I went on, “Faith is reasonable trust” (if my memory is correct, I think I learned this definition from William Lane Craig). There are at least two reasons I said this: 1) He is not reading the Bible (and he needs to study it!); and 2) it really seemed as though he was suggesting that one faith (religion) is equal to all kinds of faith (religions). In other words, all faith is on equal ground. Many people believe this. There is one massive problem with such a mindset – it fails to evaluate the object of faith (that is, what people are believing in). Just because a religion exists does not mean that it is based on truth . . . even if it has many followers! The question ought to be: which faith believes what is true? Or since there may be elements and traces of truth in various faiths, a better question may be: which faith is absolutely true? To deny the possibility of absolute truth from the outset would be to hold to the absolute truth that absolute truth is unattainable. This position is clearly self refuting. Accordingly, consistency suggests that we presuppose the possibility of absolute truth.

Back to the conversation: I discerned that he had a misconception about whether or not absolute truth exists. Thus, I told him: “Imagine being in math class and you are given a problem to solve. Suppose there are ten students who answer the question and seven different answers are given. They cannot all be right. Only one is right or they all are wrong.” He did not seem satisfied with my illustration. Whatever the case I was attempting to deal with two misconceptions. First, I was trying to show that there is absolute truth (only one answer can be right). Second, I was trying to teach that we can know it (through looking into the matter). Possibly he believes that the nature of truth in mathematics is just different than the nature of truth in religion. Thus, my argument carried no weight for him
(at least, I think it didn’t; the Lord knows).

Again, he wanted to know, “how can we know what religion to follow? There are so many?” By this time, we had already been talking for a while and he had already decided NOT to get on his bus, but to wait for the next bus in order to keep talking (this is always very encouraging!). I figured it was time to talk about Jesus. “Well, Jesus Christ is the person we need to focus on for that question. Every religion has something to say about him. We know he existed. Even liberal scholars who do not believe in Jesus (as the Son of God) do not deny that he was a real person who lived. All religions say something about him, but only Christianity believes that he rose from the dead. Do you believe that he rose from the dead?” He said, “yes.”

I said, “I don’t know about you, but if someone can raise himself from the dead, I will listen to him – I don’t care who he is.” He replied, “many people have risen from the dead.” I said, “no, only Jesus.” I went on to explain: only Jesus raised himself from the dead. Then I proceeded to tell him about something that Jesus taught. I pulled out my Bible and read John 14:6, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I asked him if he knew of C.S. Lewis. He did. I proceeded to tell him the Lord, Liar, Lunatic argument: Jesus must really be the Lord, or he was a liar or a lunatic. The bus came. I handed him a clear presentation of the Gospel (which he took). He was really appreciative for our talk (and so was I). He expressed his thanks. I hope to see him at the bus stop again.

I struggled with my own misconception of him – at first, I did not think he was being sincere, but the more he spoke, the more I realized he really wanted to hear the Christian position on selected questions. May the Lord help him (and all of us) to think rightly not only about each other, but about truth, God, man, sin and salvation. Amen.

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The Privatization of Religion in Canada

John C. and I were out at the bus stops at Islington and Elmhurst yesterday. I approached an elderly man, offering him the 10 commandment coin. He refused. I explained to him that we are out on the streets spreading the Gospel, and asked if we could talk for a bit while he waited for his bus. He agreed and started to talk about war. Later, I realized that he misunderstood me, for he originally thought I was asking him to teach me. He argued that we need a pope in Israel.

I asked, “Oh, are you Catholic?” “Yes,” he replied. I inquired about whether or not he thought God would accept him or reject him if he were to die. He was not happy with my question, and responded, “why are you talking to me?” “Because Jesus commands me to preach the Gospel.”  He looked disgusted. Pulling out my little Bible, I said, “Here, I will show you where Jesus commands this.” He said, “No, don’t read that to me.” I said, “You don’t want to hear the Bible?” He insisted that I not read from the Bible on the streets. He said that such a thing is to be done in the church. The he said, “What you need to do is go to South East Asia and preach there.” I don’t doubt that South East Asia has great need for the Gospel, but so does Toronto!

I tried to persuade him that the Scriptures teach that we are to spread the Word everywhere and that even Jesus taught on the beaches and mountains. He did not want to hear it. I transitioned back to my original question: “if you were to die today, do you believe that God would accept you reject you?” He said, “If he was sleeping.” I said, “What if he is not sleeping?” With a jot of humour he replied, “Then we’ll get drunk. Eat, drink, and tomorrow we . . . (he could not remember the end of the phrase, but eventually went on) . . . work.” If my memory is correct, I think John C. said, “die,” in order to help the man (“… tomorrow we die”).

I thought, “what a great time to go to 1 Corinthians 15.” I said, “The Bible speaks of this idea. Let me show you what the Bible says about this.” I really wanted to go to 1 Corinthians 15 (for Paul approves of this mindset ONLY IF there is no resurrection from the dead . . . BUT there is a resurrection from the dead). Again, he did not want to hear from the Bible. He said, “Don’t read it. You should do that in private! It is to be done in secret. That is to be done in the church – not out here.” I said, “That is not what the Bible says. The Bible says that I am commanded to preach everywhere.”

I considered how old he is and that he may not have any contact with people who know and preach the Gospel. I was sincerely concerned for his eternal destiny. Without anger, but in gentleness and boldness, by the grace of God, I told him, “You will go to hell if you do not respond to this.” He turned from me, took a few steps away, and looked down the street awaiting the bus. He was still within about five feet of me (certainly within an ear shot).  With sincere concern for his soul, I felt compelled to speak. By the grace of God, with sternness I spoke thus: “I will speak for no more than one minute before I go, but I have something to say: salvation has come near to you today; you will be judged; before it is too late, you need to turn to God and trust in the work that Christ did and not your own works; I hope to see you again.”

You never know how the Lord will use this call. God is mighty to save. And what about the privatization of religion in Canada? This man was simply saying out loud what many Canadians hold deep in their hearts. The reason for this is simple – people love peace more than truth. The problem with this love affair is that they fail to learn where true peace is found.  How do we as Christians respond to this tenet which is so prevalent in our culture? Well, God is not silent on this issue – may his voice have an effectual force on his church in Canada: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, emphasis mine).

Church in Canada: arise, let us hear the call of Christ our Captain!

Islam and the Forgiveness of Sins

John C. and I met a kind Sunni Muslim lady from Somalia at a bus stop yesterday. She did not want the 1o commandment coin which I hand out. She told me that she is Muslim. “Oh, Muslim, I enjoy to Muslims and I know they often like talking about religion” I replied. I told her about how I have read 81 of the 114 surahs in the Koran. I shared with her how like her –  I too believe that Jesus was a prophet, and that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, and that Jesus performed miracles. These three items are areas of agreement between Islam and Biblical Christianity.

Then I proceeded to tell her, “But there a great difference between Islam and Christianity that I would like for you to consider; well, let me ask you this: if you were to die today, do you believe that God would accept you or reject you?” She said, “He will forgive me.” I responded, “Now I am not trying to be smart with you; I just sincerely want you to think about this question, why do you believe that God will forgive you? Surely, he will not forgive everyone, for even the Koran teaches that many will be punished. Also, think of Hitler; surely Hitler will not receive the forgiveness of sins. Thus, how do you be confident that God will forgive you?”

She said, “I do not know.” Then the bus came. She kindly declined from receiving a copy of the NT. If I had more time with her I would have tried to help her see that God is holy and just and that even though he is forgiving and merciful, he must punish sin. I would have tried to preach the Gospel of Christ’s substitutionary death on this note. I am fully aware of the length of time it often takes Muslims to convert upon first hearing the Gospel. Even so, you never know the way the Lord will use conversations like these. May the Lord have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

Bus Stop to Coffee Shop to Church: He Came to Church!

Bus Stop

Phil K. and I hit the bus stops Saturday evening. We had some good talks about God’s righteous standards and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God gave us grace to continue ministering in a spirit of prayer. We continued to pray for the Lord to lead us to the right people. Interestingly, we saw a man sitting down at a bus stop just a minute or two away from us (corner of Islington and Elmhurst). Thus, we went and met him. I approached him giving him a penny with the 10 commandments on it. I explained that we are from the church down the road. I also told that we were out spreading the Gospel. I had asked him we could talk to him while he waited for the bus. He was fine with that. I learned that he is originally from India and currently attending an Anglican church.

He was thankful for the coin and wanted to know, “Why are you handing these out?” So, why do I hand out penny’s with the 10 commandments on them? Well, there are a few reasons why I do this (possibly I will post on this in detail later); but I only took the time to elaborate on one. I explained, “The 10 commandments were given to Israel. Israel agreed to obey the law, but they failed. But God, in his love, sent Jesus do be faithful in a way that Israel had not been faithful. And all of us, well, we are like Israel, we have failed to obey God’s standards which Jesus taught when he came.” He wanted to talk more. When the bus came, he suggested that we jump on the bus to keep talking. Now that was an exciting suggestion! I asked Phil, “you got your metro pass?” I had change . . . on the bus we go!

We got on the bus and though it took me a while to dig out the right change (pocket full of 10 commandment pennies!), I eventually sat down and we resumed our conversation. If my memory is correct, I think I went on to talk about the righteous standards of Jesus, which he preached when he came (cf. Matthew 5-7). However, we did not talk long on the bus, for we got off soon to go to a coffee shop where he wanted to treat us to some coffee and to sit and talk more! Bus stop to coffee shop! I love it!

Coffee Shop

We sat down and began to talk for a bit. Before long he explained to us that he had recently talked to his pastor and asked, “If I follow the theory of Christianity and the principles of Jesus and his teaching, what will happen to my soul when I die?” His question was not simply a theological test for his pastor; his question was sincere and he was concered about his soul. His pastor told him that he would get back to him with the solution (sometime in the next week or so). He told us, “I know my body will go into the ground, but what about my soul?” I was stunned. I have not met too many people at the bus stops who seem to be truly concerned about the state of their souls. I was (and I am) really thankful to the Lord for orchestrating this meeting. I told him, “Do you want the answer which is small in length, medium, medium to large or large?” He looked at the clock. Seeing it was almost 9 PM, he needed to go and get milk before a neighbouring grocery store closed. Accordingly, he went to go get his milk. While he left, Phil and I stayed put with his stuff. We prayed for the Lord to help us. I was a little troubled – where do I start? Matthew 25 came to my mind. This passage is the clearest passage which I know of which clearly spells out eteral life and eternal punishment (thus, telling us about our soul). Then he came back and our conversation resumed. We studied the Bible for well over an hour!

I gave him a New Testament which we hand out for free. We started in Matthew 25. Phil was our public reader. He would read the Scriptures aloud as my friend and I followed along in our Bibles. After the reading of each portion, we would go back and study it, interacting with it and talking about the meaning of the text. We read Matthew 25:31-46. Conclusion: the condition of our soul will depend on whether we are righteous or cursed. The righteous go into eternal life and the cursed (non-righteous) go into eternal punishment. Out of curiosity, I asked him, “is there an emphasis on explaining and teaching the Bible at your church?” He said, “no.” I encouraged him to come to our church where the Bible is explained and taught. I told him how important it is to better understand the Bible, for it is the very Word of God.

After that, we looked at Luke 18:9-14. We spent a while studying this passage. I tried to teach that there are two kinds of people in this passage – (1) those who believe not only in the need for God’s grace, but who also “trusted in themselves,” and (2) those who rely completely on God’s mercy and do NOT trust in themselves at all. He seemed to understand the point of the parable; however, he was not identifying himself with the Pharisee. I find this to be the greatest problem with most of us . . . we do not realize the we really are the Pharisee; even though our self-righteousness is not nearly as blatant, we really do tend to believe that our performance counts for at least something (even in a little bit) when it comes to gaining God’s acceptance.

Phil also directed us to John 11:17-27. We looked at how Jesus is the resurrection and the life. We spent quite a bit of time in Romans 3:9-26, especially 3:19-20. He seemed to understand that we are all guilty before God. I think we also looked at the standards of Jesus in Matthew 5-7, that we cannot even lust after a woman (5:27-28) and that we must be perfect (5:48). I tried to explain Jesus’ subsitutionary life for all who believe, and his substutionary death for all who believe. The major point of concern seemed to be his apparent misunderstanding of faith alone in Christ alone which results in works vs. faith in Christ + works for Christ in order to gain God’s acceptance.

Phil directed us to Hebrews 9:11-28, and he explained the sufficiency of Christ’s work, specifically in his sacrificial death. I cannot remember where we studied after that, but we kept talking about the sinfulness of man and the sufficiency of Christ’s work. Whatever the case, we helped him carry his groceries as we walked him home. On the way home, he made mention of the “theory of Christianity.” We took time to passionately emphasize the Christianity is centered in the person of Jesus Christ who has risen and is alive. I explained that Christianity is not simply as system of principles to believe, but a real relationship with Jesus Christ.  I referred to John 17:3, telling him, “this is eternal life, that you know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent.” When he got to his place, he invited us in and we watched a video of him performing music and dance for a Christmas festival (he is certainly talented!). Thereafter Phil and I both prayed for him. We encouraged him to come to church in the morning.

Church

Guess what! He came to church! I was delighted to see him again. He really enjoyed the teaching. The saints welcomed him with much love. Georgie (my fiance) and I took him out for lunch and at we had a great dialogue again Sunday afternoon. Again, we talked about God’s standards and the Gospel. Georgie mentioned that it is not our performance that gets us right with God (or keeps us right with God). She emphasized that it is Christ’s work that seals our standing with God.

He wanted to know about hypocrites who say that they have faith but do not have works. He was convinced that they have no right to assurance. Georgie and I agreed that those people to do not have real faith (cf. James 2); however, works do not equal saving faith. An important distinction is the following: are our works simply the result of genuine faith (which is faith alone in Christ alone), OR  do we believe that our works somehow contribute, in conjunction with Christ’s work, to make us right with God?

If someone is trusting in their works to help gain God’s acceptance, they ought to take these words to heart: “you are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Now, of course, the Galatians did not think they were saved by works of the law alone; they believed in Jesus and knew that Jesus was the Messiah. However, they started to think that trusting in his work alone was not sufficient. They started to believe that they must obey certain parts of OT law in order to help make themselves fully acceptable to God (to be a full/real son of Abraham). However, notice what Paul says, if you want your works to count at all, you are “obligated to keep the whole law” (Galatians 5:3). So, for God, you must trust in Christ alone; if you don’t, you will be judged according on your own performance (Christ’s work does not count for you).

Near the end of our discussion he indicated that though he knows he is a sinner, he does not think he deserves eternal punishment. Thus, I spent a while sharing about the holiness of God, referring to Isaiah 6, 1 John 1:5 and especially Genesis 3. Thereafter, I asked, “In the courtroom of heaven, if you were to die today, do you think you will be innocent or guilty?” He said, “A little bit of both.”

I am thankful to God for all the time we spent together. He is a very friendly man. I am really hoping that he will keep coming to the church to hear the Bible expounded clearly. I am also hoping and praying that God would open his eyes to see that, like me (and like all of us), he deserves eternal punishment, so that in believing so, he may beat his chest and cry out to Jesus, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” I also gave him the option of doing Bible studies together. We will see how the Lord leads. Praise God for this amazing weekend! You never know where bus stop evangelism may lead!

The Image of God: An Evangelistic Resource

Julian Freeman just finished preaching a 4 part series of sermons on friendship titled, “Friendship Redeemed.” In his last sermon, he was teaching that delight in God creates delight in friends. One of his points was that we should love people because they reflect God.

Here is the audio version of the clip: Enjoying God in People

Here is a clip of his sermon notes:

Sometimes theology can be misapplied and hinder our love. We get ‘total depravity’ stuck in our minds and all we can think about is how hard these people are to God. But being unable to work your salvation doesn’t mean there is nothing good in you—doesn’t mean that the image of God is totally effaced! Do you see anything in them that testifies to the God whose image they bear? Do they have a creative bent? God is the Creator. Do they have a sense of justice? God is Just. Do they love knowledge? God is all-knowing. Do they have compassion on the weak? God is the protector of the widow and the orphan. These can even be used as opportunity for evangelism. Ultimately, seeing this will help us love people.

So, there you have it – a way to think rightly about the people we preach to:  they are valuable for they are created in the image of God. Also, what we find in this teaching is a practical way to begin a conversation about God: take note of a characteristic of God which you see in another person, acknowledge it, commend it, then tell the person where it comes from (God), and then go from there (who knows . . . maybe go on to magnify how that attribute is demonstrated in the cross of Christ).

I will save any examples (for I have not used this kind of approach before), but I plan to use this method with the right person at the right time and then I will be ready to post about it from experience. I am thankful that my Pastor is helping to better equip me, not only for friendship, but also evangelism (cf. Ephesians 4:11-12).

Evangelism Training and Encouragement: A Word from some Co-labourers

In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul includes evangelists among the list of those who God has given to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Accordingly, I have designed my summer hours to work on Saturdays to make myself available for evangelism with members from my church (who work Monday to Friday). I have noticed that simply going out and spreading the Gospel is a significant encouragement for them. I thank God for placing me in a church that values the Gospel so much so that they would hire a summer evangelist. I also thank God for placing me among a fellowship of believers who are not only wanting but willing to grow in their faithfulness to spread the Gospel.

I am thankful for the fellowship of co-labouring in the Gospel with Jim S. and Nick M. this past Saturday. I strongly encourage this kind of fellowship. Due to busy schedules, these times will likely be sparse, but I highly recommend Christians to take time to fellowship this way (if at all possible). Such partnership does not have to be bus stop evangelism, but it ought to be centered in spreading the Gospel somewhere, somehow, to someone.  I have noticed that many mature Christians in solid evangelical churches enjoy the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper, prayer, singing, preaching, Bible studies and talk about spiritual things, etc. These are all great ways to fellowship and I highly recommend that all Christians enjoy these glorious means of grace (they are precious indeed). In addition to these forms of fellowship, there is the fellowship of co-labouring in the Gospel. This can occur as an organized fellowship (just as prayer meetings and Bible studies are usually at set times for that specific purpose) or it can just happen naturally when two Christians are out-and-about (i.e., Christians may naturally start talking about the Bible when they are together).

In Philippians, we learn about partnering in the Gospel through prayer, giving money/gifts and simply going and preaching the Gospel. In this post, I am specifically referring to the fellowship of spreading the Gospel with other workers (fellow believers). A quick overview of Acts 13-28 and the Pauline epistles reveals that Paul always seemed to have co-workers with him. Now, obviously our situation is different than Paul’s. Most of us are not traveling into different countries and starting new church plants. Most of us do not have the extensive training ministry that Paul had. Everyone’s situation is different. Who knows what this may look like in your context? Possibly it could mean two moms going to the park with their kids, praying for an opportunity to meet another person (and not just to chat about the weather). Or an older more mature mother could invite one of the younger ladies from the church to join her when she takes her kids to the park (or any place/event where she might meet people who have time to talk). Keep in mind that it is not only for pastors, evangelists and teachers to train. Matthew 28:19-20 carries with it an ongoing command for all disciples to be making disciples and teaching them “to observe all that I have commanded you” (even evangelism).

Now, I am not the apostle Paul (obviously!), nor can I offer his kind of training (not even close!), but by God’s grace, the Lord can use even me (and you too) to encourage and help train his church.  By God’s grace, when people come out with me, they seem to be encouraged. I hope they also learn (or re-learn) something too, even if it is a small thing. This kind of encouragement and training inclines his people to faithfulness in evangelism.  This kind of encouragement is invaluable for our churches, who are often discouraged and lacking faith in the power and will of God to save many in Canada! Indeed, encouragement is vital to the health of Christ’s church. I know that I need it, and I thank God that my c0-workers provide encouragement (and training) for me as well.

Jim joined me in the morning and Nick in the afternoon. I was encouraged by them, I learned from them, and I asked them to share about their experience of what it was like to go out with me.  They were both glad to serve me (and hopefully you too) in taking the time to do this. I highly recommend that you read them. What you find below are some reflections by Jim S., followed by some remarks by Nick M. Lastly, Nick retells the story of a great conversation he had Saturday afternoon. I especially like his description of the Gospel as “reverse the curse.” I will put this approach in my evangelistic toolbox.

Reflections from Jim

Most of the times that I have shared the gospel has been with people that I had developed some kind of relationship with – coworkers, friends of friends, etc. In the last year, these opportunities have been very rare. This is largely because my coworkers are Christians at my new job. Cold evangelism has not been something that I have done much of (probably four times in my life) because of sinful fear, natural weakness, and simply not knowing how.

I think everyone agrees that starting is the hardest part. I’ve never had too much trouble sharing the gospel with someone who is ready and willing to hear it. Getting to that point with a stranger has seemed like an insurmountable chasm of social manoeuvring that I was not able to comprehend or attempt. Now, this is pretty close to what Paul says to start a conversation: “Hi. My name is Paul. I’m out talking to people about the gospel today. Do you have a minute to talk until your bus arrives?” There. Hardest part over. Chasm bridged. Of the four people that we tried to engage on Saturday, three said, “yes.” The usual follow-up question is, “do you have a religious background?” Now the presentation can be tailored to their beliefs. That was a huge benefit from our time out on Saturday: a system for getting people engaged.

I promised Paul that I would not talk about how great of an evangelist he is. However, another thing I found encouraging was how spectacular his gospel presentation was not. Listening to some people share the gospel can be like listening to a great musician and despairing of ever being of any possible use yourself. Watching Paul depend on the Lord and faithfully speak of Christ without any particular worldly eloquence demonstrated that this is not something that is required only of ultra-gifted Christians. It is something that I need to continue making an effort to incorporate into my own life and can expect to do successfully.

Reflections from Nick

At first I was very nervous. People in our culture can sometimes be very standoffish which makes it awkward to go up to a complete stranger and start a conversation. However, God gives grace. Most people will talk when you approach them in a friendly manner.

The Spirit really calmed my fears. I just thought about the work I was doing and the glory that it can bring to God. For me, it was a really exciting experience once we started speaking with people.

After we were finished I was full of joy. I told this to Paul and he said, “It’s the joy that comes from obeying our God!” This is very true. Although evangelism can be very scary, through the Spirit, the joys can overcome the fears. I’m glad I went witnessing on Saturday.

Nick preaches the Gospel – “a reverse of the curse”

While Paul was assisting a man with finding the appropriate bus stop I decided to go across the street and speak to a woman who was sitting on the step outside a church. The woman was listening to her MP3 player so as I approached her I made it obvious that I wanted to talk to her by making eye contact, reaching out to hand her a 10 commandments penny, and smiling. She took off her headphones and greeted me with a, “hello”. I introduced myself to her and told her what Paul and I were doing. I asked her if I could talk to her about Jesus and she agreed.

I began by asking if she knew anything about Christianity. She responded by saying, “Well, my parents are Christian; I am too, I think…” I said, “That’s great” and then asked her if she could tell me what Christianity was all about. She said, “It’s really about values; you know, as a Christian you value the things that the Bible says.” I said, “That’s great. Yes, the Bible tells God’s people what they ought to value; many of those things are different than the values of the world. However, the core of Christianity isn’t just about values; it’s about what God has done in and through Jesus Christ.” I asked another question, “When you look at the world around you do you think that there is something wrong?” She answered in the affirmative. I said, “There is tragedy all around us. There is suffering and death.  We just heard on the news about Michael Jackson who lived a tragic life and died a tragic death!” She responded, “You’re right. Our world is messed up.” Then I asked, “So what do you think is wrong with our world? Why do you think our world is like this?” She said that she didn’t really know. I told her, “I want to tell you what the Bible says about our problem and what God has done to save us.”

So I explained, “From the beginning God originally created our world good. God made man to live in fellowship with himself, to enjoy his good creation and experience great blessing in God’s presence.” I asked, “Have you ever heard of Adam and Eve.” She laughed and said, “Yes!” “Well” I said, “God created Adam and Eve to live in fellowship with him but they rebelled against him. Because of this God cursed our world; this is why our world is the way it is; our sin caused it.” She seemed to be taking it in. I continued, “God did not desire to leave us in his curse. He called a man named Abraham and promised him that he would create a people who would experience his blessing instead of his curse.” I asked, “When Jesus came to earth do you know what his message was?” She said, “Jesus was all about teaching people to love one another. By doing this people can find life.” I responded, “Jesus did teach his followers to love one another. In fact, that was a very important part of his mission. But Jesus’ ministry was about something much more than just that. Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God.”

I asked, “Do you know what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God?” She said she didn’t so I explained, “The kingdom of God basically means ‘the reverse of the curse’. Although man deserves to be under God’s curse he sent Jesus to bring his blessing. Whenever Jesus healed someone, made the blind see, cast out demons, or raised the dead he was showing that his mission was to reverse the curse that had rightly fallen on us.” I asked, “Does this sound like good news?” She laughed and said, “Yes!” I told her that there was more, “One day Jesus is going to return to judge the living and the dead. He will come to defeat all evil once and for all. But this raises a problem for you and me. If the world was filled with people just like me and just like you would the world be a better place?” She thought about it for a second and then said no. “That’s right. We are evil. You are evil. And if Jesus is coming to judge all evil then we ourselves need to be done away with. We don’t deserve God’s blessing, we deserve his eternal curse in hell. But Jesus did something so that we could become a part of his kingdom. He went to the cross. He was our substitute. He entered into darkness so that we wouldn’t have to. He, even though he wasn’t a sinner, was treated like a sinner on our behalf. He bore the curse that we deserve so that we could go free and enter into his kingdom community. Jesus died as our ransom; then, Jesus rose from the dead. He broke the curse once and for all. The Bible says, “He loosed the pangs of death”. All this was done so that people just like us could experience God’s blessing instead of his curse; so that we could have fellowship with God, receive his Spirit, and have the hope of a world to come without any pain or sorrow.”

I handed her a bible and I told her to read the gospel of Mark. I told that God commands her to repent. I emphasized that this was not an option but that she needs to pledge her allegiance to Jesus so that she could be forgiven.

Why Bus Stops?

Why bus stops? Good question. Let me explain. Let me give you a brief history on how I stumbled across the idea. Two summers years ago I did my first internship at GFC. I was hired as a part-time summer evangelist (12 weeks long). How should I start? I had no idea. The elders suggested that I begin going door-to-door to invite people to church; this would give me a better feel for the dynamics of the community, and it would remind people that there is a church in the neighbourhood which they are welcome to. I was nervous, but by God’s grace I went. Indeed, going door-to-door certainly helped me get a much better grasp of the demographics of our church neigbourhood.

Going door-to-door was a very interesting experience to say the least. To this day I still have good relations with many people in the church neighbourhood, which came as a result of simply getting out there and introducing myself (and the church) in a friendly manner. Some people are genuinely interested in a church which is in their own neighbourhood. They are more likely to come to your Christmas and Easter services if you are that friendly person who stops in every now and then to say hello and to see how they are.

I would sometimes try to talk to people at their door (lawn/porch) if I sensed they had time to talk. Sometimes I would eventually try sharing the Gospel with them. I think I only had the door slammed in my face a few times. I recall being swore at only a few times (in English). Most people were polite, but not interested. Once in a while the Lord opened doors for the spread of the Gospel (which was great!), but the opportunities seemed far and few between.

One day at the beginning of the summer, after knocking on many doors without many people home and without much gossipping of the Gospel, I thought to myself, “I will go to the bus stops, I know there are people there.” I was afraid of approaching strangers, but I knew that God was (and is) with me and that He was (and is) powerful to cause people to listen. Accordingly, I prayed and went, and the Lord opened many doors!

I found that many people were willing to listen. Many people had good questions about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Of course, there were those who were glad to have my ear so that they could preach a different message to me! Even so, many people who I spoke with had never heard the Gospel before. How do I know this? I would ask them. After sharing the Gospel, I would say, “Have you ever heard this message before?” Many had not . . . even church goers!

So, why bus stops? Because I can get an ear – that is one of the main reasons. Ear? Yes, I said ear. Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). We must remember that it is the message of the Gospel which is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Bus stops are obviously not the be-all and end-all of evangelism, but they are places where people have time to give you an ear (or two) to listen to the truth of the Gospel (which they may have never heard before or simply never understood).

What is especially good about bus stops is that people are generally bored. They do not have much to do while they wait. From my limited experiences in Rexdale, I have noticed that (generally speaking) people are more open to talk with me at bus stop than at their front door (when they could be online, watching TV, etc.). Furthermore, they know the conversation will come to end as soon as the bus comes. This reassures them that this talk about the Christian Gospel will not be endless. So, everyone I approach listens right? Not exactly. Of course people reject me and politely say, “thanks but no thanks.” However, I think most Christians in Canada would be shocked (and I mean shocked!!!) by how many people are actually willing to listen and dialogue at bus stops. In fact, I was recently sharing about this bus stop ministry with a man who agreed that the Lord will eventually open doors, but he said (with sincerity), “about one in a million.” I had to inform him that the ratio is much smaller. But more on this later.

So how does it work? What is my method? I do not have one. Every situation is different. Every person is different. Every bus stop area has its own unique setting. Thus, I flex. I am not a robot. As mystical as this may sound, the truth remains, “the Spirit leads.” Cookie cutter evangelistic methods fail to realize that in evangelism we are talking to real people who have a real past with real issues that are unique. Not that it is wrong to have a general approach to gravitate to, but as ambassador’s of Christ, though we preach Christ, we also need to listen to people and take care to make sure they are understanding God’s message (cf. Colossians 1:6). When they have questions and objections, we must care for them and interact in an appropriate manner (every situation is different). This means that it may not be best to stay on your Romans road, or a Ray Comfort “Would you consider yourself to be a good person?” approach, or a John Piper “Did you know God commands your happiness?” track. These are all good approaches, which I personally use, but we must be sure to try to get to know the people we meet. Can you image sitting at the lunch room and having a pre-set speech that you had planned for every person you spoke with? There is something about that which is a little off.

Our primary aim is NOT to feel good that we said this and then that! Our primary aim is to please Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9), and this is centred in preaching his Gospel; but such practise ought to be controlled by “the love of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:14). And what does this mean? It certainly refers to our love for Christ, but also his love working in us for others. So, we must really love those who we are talking to. Such love must preach, but this preaching is the preaching of a shepherd who cares for those with whom he speaks. With all that being said, there is a general way I usually go about meeting people.

Generally speaking, I simply go up to a person who is not right beside anyone else (so that I do not embarrass one person in the midst of a crowd) and I simply offer them a free coin (with the 10 commandments on it) or tract. While I offer it to him, I smile, encourage him to take it as a free gift and explain who I am, that I am from the church down the road and that I am out on the streets sharing the Gospel with people. Then I will simply ask if he would be willing to let me talk with him about the Gospel while he waits for his bus. Then, if his is willing, we talk. If he is not willing, I will sometimes plead briefly (saying, something like, “please, this is very important”). If he is still unwilling, I will respect his wish and gently withdraw (feeling sadness in my heart).

For those who I am speaking with, when I see the bus coming, I give them a free New Testament which has an insert, which is a clear presentation of the Gospel (which I wrote). By the way, I tend to think that people are more inclined to read something that you wrote (once they have met you) rather than something by some guy (or gal) they have never met. Now with that being said, I do hand out tracts with stuff written by MacArthur and Piper, etc., but this  side note is simply an encouragement for you to write out the Gospel message, calling sinners to come freely – to repent and believe the Gospel. People who know you and meet you just may read it! Hey, why not ask them to edit it?! Now, on the topic of the literature, what I hand out includes my contact info and all the church info (church address, times of services, website, etc.). Thus, future correspondence is definitely an option.

How many people are willing to talk? Well, I have not recorded the stats, but based on a rough estimate from my limited memory, I would say at least a third of the people who I approach are willing to talk (generally speaking . . . every day is different). This may be different in your area, but I thank God for bus stops! Think about how many ears are hearing the Gospel!

But what about friendships? Some may think, “you will never see these people again.” That is usually true. Even so, that is not a bad thing; people get sanctified by the truth (John 17:17), and even though people also come to Christ in conjunction with observation of Christian love and unity (John 13:35 and 17:20-21), never underestimate the power of the message itself. Just think of the written message of the Gospel of John. Now, I know that it is inspired, but even so, he did not have to become friends first before people were positively effected by his message. I know this argument is not air tight, but there is something to be said for the power of the Gospel itself. And though there is some merit to the slogan, “you have to earn your right to speak,” it has it’s problems too. Think about this: God has spoken – He has earned his right to speak – you are simply sharing His message (which He commands you to spread) – He has the power to open doors when and where he wills.  This is just some food for thought.

So, it is usually true that I do not see people again (who I have met a bus stops). However, that is not always true. At the beginning of my internship two years ago I thought I would never see these people again. However, after a summer of bus stop ministry I learned something: many people who use the bus are regulars. They typically use the same bus stops (at roughly the same times). Just think, you could become the chaplain of a bus stop! I am not kidding. Some people were glad to see me (an evangelist!) when they were waiting for a bus; I was someone they knew, who they could talk to! By God’s grace there is currently a couple attending our church, who first visited our church largely as a result of the bus stop ministry two years ago. Furthermore, you would be shocked to see how many people the Lord gave me ongoing dialogue with during my summer evangelism ministry two summers ago – may the Lord see fit to open such doors again this summer. This is not to my praise or honour. Keep in mind – the bus stop ministry was not my idea; I accidentally stumbled across it because of frustrations with door-to-door ministry. To God be all the glory for any good that has been done through the bus stop ministry. I am nothing (Galatians 6:3).

Another main reason why I keep doing bus stops is because it is a great place to train those who want to grow in their faithfulness and ability in sharing the Gospel. I have led evangelism training seminars before, where I taught on evangelism and even where I encouraged practise evangelism; however, nothing compares to actually getting out there and trying to spread the Gospel.

Anyhow, I have learned that there are people out there wondering, “what’s up with this bus stop stuff?” Well, this post is simply an attempt to share some of the reasons why I devote some time each week to evangelism at bus stops. I hope that it will encourage you to seriously consider where you can best get an ear (or two) in your area. I also go to a local mall as well as a particular coffee shop in the area where I try to build relationships and spread the Gospel. In addition, I am doing a program-oriented childrens evangelism minsitry with Grace Chapel in Markham. Doing an evangelistic Bible study would be ideal, but I need a seeker to start (may the Lord grant one!). I think there are many other great ways to advance the Gospel (through street preaching, Bible studies, tracts, sports, teaching english, service, free literature tables, free stuff, etc., etc.). As someone told me not too long ago: “there is only one way to God, but many ways to Jesus.” Bus stops are just one way.