Driving up to Carlisle on Saturday morning with a team of evangelists was both exciting and daunting. The weather was predicted to be bleak indeed and I was worried we would be ministering to an empty city, as all the Brits seem to keep indoors when the weather is bad.
Joining Anna and I today were John and Jim from Sheffield, with Rob, James, and Carl from London. We were meeting Dale, Kevin, Allan, Keith and Marion at Carlisle and aiming to minister in the centre of town where Dale, Keith and Marion normally witness.
We gathered in the square of the town and together prayed to the Lord that He would bless our efforts and go with us as we witnessed. The team spread out and started to tract the area as Rob and I sought out a good vantage to preach from, quickly there were many one-to-one conversations happening. As seemed to be the pattern for the day from this point onwards, there was at any point I looked around at least one or two witnessing conversations going. What an encouragement to see the people hearing the gospel and God drawing those who needed to hear!
Dale was the first preacher of the day to preach from in front of Costa coffee shop, he has become increasingly bold for the Lord and it was a pleasure to hear him preach again. Dale confessed that he was fearful before starting, this is normal for any preacher who knows before whom they preach and appropriately Dale went to his heavenly father in prayer about it. The gospel sounded out and some gathered to hear, from these some stopped to talk with members of the team afterwards. We pray they would turn and be saved.
Rob was next up to preach and as he proclaimed the gospel many went past scoffing but few stopped and those seated around us heard loud and clear. Rob works very hard to ensure that he does not obscure Christ when he speaks and the fruit of this is that his preaching is very clear and easily followed.
As Rob stepped down the team swung into action and for the next 45 minutes one-to-one conversations were continuously happening. During this time I noticed two things that made me smile. Paddy (our dog) would effectively be starting one-to-ones when Anna would witness to those that came to say hello to him (she told me later that he also hijacked a few conversations!). Also John seemed to be in constant conversations, he carries a large banner with scripture verses on it, it was great to see people coming to talk attracted to the word of God.
Kevin preached next and he began by pointing to the stupidity of women in accepting the perversions that so many men see as normal now, pornographic magazines and tv shows and even strip clubs. This is truth is an affront to the pride of man, and while true it of course offended a few people and a complaint was made. Part way through the preaching some community officers stopped Kevin and took him to one side. At this I stood up and addressed the gathering crowd, intending to preach the gospel to them while Kevin spoke to the officers. An irate officer also stopped me and after a short discussion we agreed to the reasonable request that the preachers moderate their language. Kevin got up and preached to those who remained and during this time answered heckles from a local drunk and a couple of ladies. Praise God that we were able to continue in preaching the gospel; pray that it would be the righteous demands of God that would be an offence to people and not us as preachers of those demands.
Jim preached next and began by comparing the world and its perishing demands to a luxury car going off a cliff with a humble mini (the Christian life of humility under God) that safely gets you where you want to go. As Jim preached the Lord opened the clouds and down came the hail and rain, unfazed Jim preached on and urged the people of Carlisle to repent and humble themselves before Christ.
When Jim stepped down we headed for the shelter of the nearby mall and spent some time in the warmth in fellowship until the showers passed and we'd warmed up.
I was next up to preach as we went out to witness again, I was interrupted as I was setting up though. A "Christian" lady was with her friends at the coffee shop and came to ask me if we could preach further away, so that people in the coffee shop would not be disturbed by the sound of the preaching. I was saddened and offended by this, a professing Christian coming to stop the preaching of the gospel! I promised her I would take her request into consideration, considering it fired me to preach with passion. With this passion to see the lost saved I poured out my heart to all who could hear and spoke to the people of Carlisle of the disease of sin in their hearts and the eternal death and punishment that would be its deserved end. I pleaded and called them to come and consider Christ and to repent of their evil ways and turn to him in faith.
During this a lady came to speak with me who claimed that through transcendental meditation she could become God! I pointed her to the author of this lie, Satan himself claimed that he could ascend on high and become as God and has been teaching others they can do likewise since the fall. Satan's end will be in the lake of fire as this lady's will be if she would not repent. The discussion ended with her leaving quoting the post-modernist credo "what's true for you is not true for me". Unfortunately for those who trust in the relative truth propaganda it doesn't work in practice. In the same way that it is absurd to jump from a rooftop saying "gravity is true for you but not true for me", it is equally absurd to claim that two contradictory points of view are both true.
As Christians we claim that the only way anyone can be saved from the just and eternal punishment of sin in hell is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. This is either wrong and or right and Jesus when He said "I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me" left us with only two choices.
With only a little time left in the day James stood and preached the glorious news of salvation through Christ. This was his first time and he preached well and strongly and I don't doubt that he will make an excellent preacher.
After this when the one-to-ones had finished we joined together to praise God for His goodness and mercy in allowing us the opportunity to witness. We offered up our requests that the people of Carlisle would be saved and prayed that more labourers in the harvest would be raised up. We shared in some dinner together and after our goodbyes drove home, and it was at that point that the heavens opened and down came the sleet and rain. Praise God for such a good day and for His infinite grace and mercy to wretched sinners in desperate need of a saviour.
Soli Deo Gloria!