Saturday, April 24, 2010


For the third year in a row I was able to participate in Rio de Janeiro's annual St. George Festival. St. George was a Roman soldier and Christian who refused to bow down to and worship an image of the deified Roman emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.). He paid the ultimate price for his faithfulness to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, which makes this annual event so ironic!

You see, both Roman Catholics and Spiritists "venerate" St. George to the point of attributing to him supernatural powers such as the ability to answer their prayers. When we arrived at the festival the first thing we saw was a man on stilts and dressed as a clown with his prayer to St. George printed on a sign on his back. Also, due to his military status, St. George is essentially the "patron saint" of the Rio police force and fire department. He is venerated for being a warrior who supposedly will fight for those who put their lives on the line.

In other words, what makes this whole St. George thing so ironic is that people end up doing to St. George what he refused to do (and eventually died for): to worship idols!

After arriving near an outdoor stage where the Catholic Church was holding continuous masses, we faced in the opposite direction so as not to disturb the mass with our bullhorn and began to preach, hand out a great little tract put out by the Baptists here called "How to Have Eternal Life" while holding our two banners high. One of the banners (see above) that I had originally developed to use while preaching to the gay pride parades in Rio and São Paulo had Rom. 1:26-27 and 1 Cor. 6:9-10 on it. Actually, since 1 Cor. 6:9-10 covers a variety of sins - including idolatry - this banner has been a mainstay at most of my preaching events. In the interest of not only giving people the bad news, I made sure I included the following statement at the bottom of this banner: "What's the solution? Abandon your sins and deposit your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord." The other banner had the Ten Commandments on one side and James 2:10 on the other.

We were a relatively small group of four (three others couldn't participate at the last minute): me, one recent Law School graduate (Alexandre), a Social Work student (Flávia) and an older gentleman from my church (Jorge). While Alexandre and I took turns preaching, whoever wasn't preaching was either holding a banner, handing out tracts and/or talking one-on-one with people.

At one point while Alexandre was preaching I noticed a festival official talking to Flávia. I was thinking, "Oh, here we go again!" You see, last year we had unintentionally stirred up an almost violent reaction on the part of the St. George followers as we preached in front of St. George Catholic Church in the West District of Rio de Janeiro. While preaching against idolatry and several other biblically-erroneous doctrines of the Catholic Church (e.g., purgatory, salvation by faith + works, etc.) we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a sea of red-shirted (St. George's official color) faithful shouting us down, telling us to leave, beginning to push and shove us while lifting up a huge styrofoam sculpture of St. George - on his horse - in front of our banner so that people would be unable to see the text. We were escorted out of the immediate area by municipal guards for safety reasons, but not before being interviewed by two newspaper reporters (and being filmed by a national TV station).

So, when I saw that festival official speaking with Flávia, then being joined by a municipal guard, I knew we were about to be interrupted. Sure enough, the municipal guard (whom I had spoken with last year while preaching in another part of downtown Rio) called me aside to encourage us to leave in light of the anger our presence was already generating among 10-15 men. We were being accused by those men of doing something illegal because we were promoting "religious intolerance," but the guard assured us we were legal. His only concern was for our safety. I told him that I felt it was his duty to protect us as we exercised the
Brazilian equivalent of the First Amendment, but apparently they don't value the right to free speech as highly as U.S. authorities do. Since the other three had never been in a situation like that, I decided to not make those men any angrier than they already were and followed the advice of the guard to move our outreach to the train station, which was about 300 yards away. In fact, many festival goers were arriving from the west side of the city by train, so it was an opportunity to preach to many before or after their participation in the festival, not to mention to many others who were using the trains that holiday.

Besides the thousands who heard our preaching and/or read our banners, to our knowledge at least four people humbly gave their lives to Christ. Our prayer is that the banner verses, the words that were audibly heard via the preaching (or the one-on-one conversations) and the evangelistic tracts would accomplish God's purpose in each life that was reached.

It was a long day for us, and some of us had some aches and pains during and after the event, but we all felt that we had given our all to lift Jesus Christ up - the Truth - in the midst of such an idolatrous event. Thank you, Jesus, for allowing us to preach the gospel to so many!

Friday, April 16, 2010


We came across a thought-provoking article recently that points out the problems of a church "going seeker-friendly." Here are some of the more convicting parts:

"I once read through a stack of newspaper and magazine articles that highlight a common thread in the user-friendly phenomenon. These observations from newspaper clippings describe the preaching in user-friendly churches:

    • 'There is no fire and brimstone here... Just practical, witty messages.'
    • 'Services at [the church featured in the article] have an informal feeling. You won't hear people threatened with hell or referred to as sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome, not drive them away.'
    • 'As with all clergymen [this pastor's] answer is God– but he slips Him in at the end, and even then doesn't get heavy. No ranting, no raving. No fire, no brimstone. He doesn't even use the H-word. Call it Light Gospel. It has the same salvation as the Old Time Religion, but with a third less guilt.'
    • 'The sermons are relevant, upbeat, and best of all, short. You won't hear a lot of preaching about sin and damnation, and hell fire. Preaching here doesn't sound like preaching. It is sophisticated, urbane, and friendly talk. It breaks all the stereotypes.'
    • '[The pastor] is preaching a very upbeat message... It's a salvationist message, but the idea is not so much being saved from the fires of hell. Rather, it's being saved from meaninglessness and aimlessness in this life. It's more of a soft-sell.'
"So the new rules may be summed like this: Be clever, informal, positive, brief, friendly, and never, never use the H-word." - John MacArthur

"When a sinner wanders into the church and sits through skits, mimes, interpretive dances, and the like, and yet never hears a clear, convicting message about his dangerous and tenuous spiritual situation – that he is a depraved sinner headed for an eternal fire because he is a daily offense to a holy God – how can that be called successful? You could achieve the same level of success by sending a cancer patient to receive treatment from a group of children playing doctor. A sinner must understand the imminent danger he is in if he is ever to look to the Savior." - John MacArthur

"I fear there are some who preach with the view of amusing men, and as long as people can be gathered in crowds, and their ears can be tickled, and they can retire pleased with what they have heard, the orator is content, and folds his hands, and goes back self-satisfied. But Paul did not lay himself out to please the public and collect the crowd. If he did not save them he felt that it was of no avail to interest them. Unless the truth had pierced their hearts, affected their lives, and made new men of them, Paul would have gone home crying, 'Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?'...

"Now observe, brethren, if I, or you, or any of us, or all of us, shall have spent our lives merely in amusing men, or educating men, or moralizing men, when we shall come to give our account at the last great day we shall be in a very sorry condition, and we shall have but a very sorry record to render; for of what avail will it be to a man to be educated when he comes to be damned? Of what service will it be to him to have been amused when the trumpet sounds, and heaven and earth are shaking, and the pit opens wide her jaws of fire and swallows up the soul unsaved? Of what avail even to have moralized a man if still he is on the left hand of the judge, and if still, "Depart, ye cursed," shall be his portion?'" [Charles Spurgeon; Soul Saving Our One Business, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 25 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1879), 674-76.]

May we see more pastors raised up with a passion for the lost - a passion that will force them to not mince words! May we see more pastors raised up with a passion for the found - a passion that will force them to biblically feed the sheep!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Do you still think I deserve hell?"

Our Easter Emphasis Event at UCAM that I talked about in my last post followed on the coattails of an outreach The 8-32 Movement did during UCAM's once-a-semester beer bash! In all my years of ministering at universities, this was a first! And what was even more radical was recent UCAM grad Alexandre's suggestion that I hoist my "Ten Commandments" banner while others handed out evangelistic tracts with The 8-32 Movement contact info. on it. I confess that I was a bit skeptical at first - not to mention scared - but fortunately everything went smoothly.

After arriving at the entrance to the beer bash and finally finding the student government leader who had promised to let us in for free, the four of us took our positions near the 10 port-a-potties due to the illumination there and a "captive audience" of those lined up to "relieve" themselves :) The music was loud, but we were able to converse intermittently with those who wanted to talk. I came across a couple of "ex" evangelical church members, along with two guys who heard me preach the last night of Carnival - the same day we arrived back in Brazil (Feb. 16). For a full report on that event, see my Carnival & Other Open-Air Adventures post. One of the guys who I preached to at the Carnival outreach sarcastically asked me. "Do you still think I deserve hell?" Meanwhile, the other tried to justify himself as good enough to get into heaven one day. The first guy claimed to be an atheist and felt that all Christians were "idiots," while his friend was too drunk to have a serious conversation with. I told the first guy he had to deny the existence of God because that was the only way he could continue in his sinful rebellion and not feel guilty. Pray for him, although I forgot to get his name, because what are the "chances" of running into the same guy you preached to six weeks earlier in a city of 6 million??!! Oh, by the way, neither of them are students at UCAM! They showed up at the "party" apparently just to drink and . . .

Being in the midst of one of these infamous beer bashes reinforced 8-32's commitment to "transform the world with the Truth." Jesus claimed to be the Truth in John 14:6, while John says that God's Word - the Bible - is truth (17:7). That's why I could proudly hold up a banner in the midst of such blatant sin with the Ten Commandments - from Exodus 20 - on one side and James 2:10 on the other: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." TRUTH . . . in the face of drunkenness, violence (Yes, some fights broke out.), profanity, sensuality (clothing, dancing, kissing, groping, etc.). Will we be allowed into the next event? I'm not sure, but we'll be there either on the inside or the outside because people need to be confronted with the TRUTH, no matter how much they may hate to hear or see it!

All in all we handed out nearly 300 tracts between 9:00 p.m. and midnight, not to mention exposed nearly all 2,000 people at the beer bash to the bad news in the hope that they will be intrinsically motivated to seek out the Good News from 8-32, a Christian friend or family member, a trustworthy internet sight, a Christian bookstore, a local church, etc. This is what we're praying for!

Thanks for helping make Christ an issue at UCAM, in the marketplace and in the Brazilian Church through The 8-32 Movement and the Hamiltons!

Your Co-Laborers in Rio,

Bill & Aïda

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"I'm asking that Jesus go back into his tomb..."

All day yesterday The 8-32 Movement was at Candido Mendes University (UCAM) trying to make the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ an issue. The five of us involved in the outreach set up a display near the elevators that the students use (UCAM's main campus is in a tall office building in downtown Rio.), but were quickly told by a security guard that we needed permission to be there. Alexandre, who recently finished UCAM's Law School and is an 8-32 volunteer, went to talk with the person responsible for giving us permission, but we were denied! I was told I had to pack everything up, which I did, while Alexandre talked with the UCAM's vice president, who came to see what we were planning on doing.

Professor Antonio Luis, the VP, subsequently gave his permission for us to be there saying, with a somewhat-sarcastic smile on his face, "I don't see a problem, although I am of another religion. If the students get too agitated over your display, however, I'm asking that 'Jesus go back into his tomb' until things calm down!"

So, we were back in business! We set everything up again, including my "Did Jesus Really Die?" banner with the five main theories on what happened to Jesus' body, including the true theory of the resurrection. We were taking surveys as a way of identifying students willing to hear how Jesus says someone can become a Christian. One of the survey questions we asked was, "What does Easter stand for?" There was almost a tie between "the resurrection of Jesus" and "a time to gather as a family!" Those who answered the latter normally put that they didn't believe in the God of the Bible and/or were not members of any religious group or church. I guess we are seeing the effects of being raised in a secular family and school environment, although Brazil is still considered the largest Catholic country in the world.

Students trickled in and out of UCAM most of the day until 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. - the "hot hours" on campus when most students arrive after work for night classes. While students waited for the elevators we handed them surveys and asked them to fill them out during class. They would be able to trade their survey for a gum-pop (i.e., a lollipop with gum on the inside) and the Josh McDowell article The Case of the Empty Tomb on their way out. Out of 200 surveys handed out we only received 52 back, but we now have some good contacts to follow up on, including a number of Christians wanting to check out 8-32 next week! To God be the glory!