Sunday, August 24, 2008

"The Rescue Shop" in Action!

I've come a long way in my Christian walk, as hopefully you have too. What I find fascinating is that, unlike the majority of the so-called "Believers" out there, I have come out of a somewhat "don't-you-dare-use-your-legalism-on-me" mentality - and practice - and have adopted a more radical approach to Christianity. I mean, I am sick and tired of a Christianity that allows its followers to do practically anything in the name of "grace" and because of 1 John 1:9.

But it really all started when I took a little test on my "style of evangelism," put out by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg in their book Becoming a Contagious Christian. Discovering my "confrontational" and "intellectual" styles propelled me into a new world - the world of open air preaching!  And I love it! Sure, the visible results aren't so readily visible, but knowing that God is using you to sow the truth of His Word in hearts that just happen to be passing by is reward enough. After all, I can't save anybody anyway. That's God's job. My job is to simply, clearly and faithfully proclaim the Word, leaving the results to God.

I really took the plunge into open air preaching after last fall's Southeastern Open Air Preachers Association conference - - which dispelled a lot of myths that even I had of this ministry. I remember conversing with several students - some Christians - at Georgia Tech during one of afternoons of open air ministry and basically trying to give a defense of the message and the method. I remember thinking, "My approach would be more intellectual if I were preaching!" After seeing the convicting power of God's Spirit through an appeal to the conscience - that even those students couldn't avoid, in spite of the foolish ideas they were assimilating on campus - I saw the wisdom of circumventing the mind - somewhat, at least - and going for the conscience. Intellectual arguments will never save people, and a wise evangelist will look for and take the first opportunity to appeal to the conscience after first appealing to the intellect.

The light clicked on as to why open air preachers, whether the be preaching on campus or on a street corner, preach God's judgement so readily. You see, Jesus hates sin (Heb. 1:9). If our God hates sin, shouldn't we? And if we hate what God hates, in the face of it what will we say? "God loves you?" I would suggest, "God hates all workers of iniquity" (Psalm 5:5). That will sober a group up really quick! Hard words? You bet. Biblical? You bet too!

So, I got back to Brazil after that conference last fall and discovered the 12th annual Rio de Janeiro Gay Pride Parade was scheduled in just two weeks. My wife was going to be out of the country during that time, so I made my preparations to preach unbeknownst to her. I certainly didn't want to worry her unnecessarily!

To make a long story short, I preached my first "sin event" with the help of two other brothers, one of whom was a policeman. We weren't physically attacked, but were confronted by several people, including a guy who had a curse put on me via cell phone and a guy who called me a clown and told me to go back to where I had come from. We had strategically positioned ourselves at the arrival point for the majority of the revelers, who arrived about every 5 minutes by subway on famous Copacabana Beach. Both banners that I had made up were put to good use, always directed toward the arriving revelers. My bullhorn followed suit.

It was good start. One of the banners specifically confronted homosexuality and its link to AIDS and God's judgement.  The other banner, that we held high on a paint roller extension pole, quoted Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. This second banner has proved invaluable in all different types os preaching situations - specifically the 1 Cor. passage. I used it while preaching in front of bars and to Carnival (i.e., Mardi Gras) revelers because of its condemnation of drunkenness, alcoholism, fornication and adultery. It's a great "one-verse-catches-all" banner!

A week ago I preached alone at an off-season Carnival celebration in my part of town. I was amazed at the number of people, not to mention the number of police that had to be brought in. It was exciting to see the conviction of sinners by God's written and spoken word! Since I was alone, I was grateful that nobody decided to take a swipe at me. I'm sure being strategically positioned near a police station did help!

A couple of days earlier I tried something totally different: I preached to 200 students who were on a break from meetings promoted by the Landless Movement (Movimento Sem Terra), a socialist movement demanding that unused land be given freely to its members. This movement was holding its annual conference on the university campus in my city, while the attendees slept in tents across the street from campus on municipal property. I'm thinking, "What an opportunity. These youth were from all around the country, and most were college students!

I arrived and set up position near a fence. I opened on my bullhorn with: "You guys are a bunch of hypocrites. You say you want to change the world, but you yourselves need to change! You're a joke!" Well, needless-to-say, that got their attention. Eventually one brave kid came up and began questioning me. He was soon joined by another 9-10. It got pretty heated, and I want to study up some more on how to deal with leftist radicals, but the problem of their sin, its consequences and the good news of Jesus satisfying God's wrath was preached. Most took my evangelistic pamphlets.

One guy was introduced to me as a "believer" who was involved in their Marxist movement. He proudly told me that he had even prepared to become a missionary to Africa, but he had come to see that the most important needs that man has are physical. I confronted him in no uncertain terms, telling him that he never had been a Christian because a Christian knows that the most important need that man has is a spiritual one. I then quoted 2 Cor. 13:5 to him: "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?"

Okay, I think that's about all I'll be able to share tonight. Let me finish by saying that open air ministry, especially preaching, is where it's at! If you haven't tried it, pair up with somebody and go for it at some busy event or on a busy sidewalk. You may get the ball rolling by simply reading a verse or passage - I recommend Rom. 1:18-32 - and expounding on it a bit. Or try 1 Cor. 6:9-11. Before you know it, God will bring verses and arguments to mind. You can also pick up a lot of pointers by watching open air preaching videos on YouTube.

Okay, that'll have to do it for tonight!

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