As the weather here in Yorkshire warms up, people are more happy to talk and will interact with us more. This can be great but it can also mean that preaching can become very chaotic, as was the case today.
Jim and I prayed together in the centre of Fargate and then Jim stood to preach the good news of Christ crucified for sinners. Jim has only been preaching on the street for a short period of time but has a very strong preaching method from his work as a lay preacher. People tend to gather to hear what he says and as I stood praying that people would be drawn in to hear the gospel that is just what happened.
As a crowd gathered a lady who claimed to be a follower of Jesus shouted out a question ‘how can you reconcile the God of the bible and the suffering of the world'. I am not sure on the sincerity of her questioning but she claimed that she was having doubts about her faith and wanted answers. Jim did an excellent job to answer this very difficult question (the short answer is sin produces suffering, not God), and then turned to question her in return regarding the sin in her heart. During the good person test she justified herself many times and though she would admit some guilt before God I wondered if it was pride or embarrassment that stopped her from being honest. It is a good thing to test your faith against reality and struggle with the difficult questions that come from this struggle, but it must be done in knowledge of our fallenness and in submission to God's revealed truth.
At this stage the crowd was getting larger and 30 or so people were standing and listening to the interactions, I began to hand explanation tracts to all those who left and so heard only a little of the preaching. In quick succession Jim fielded questions from a series of hecklers; first was an angry Atheist who would not listen and only justified himself as being the same as everyone else when questioned about his obedience to God. Next was Chris who likewise thought he was good because he did nothing different to the rest of the people he knew, revealingly he stormed off when Jim opened the bible to read him a passage of scripture. Next was a group of youth that seemed determined to be as foul as they could possibly be, they wanted to know about homosexuality and if God is against it. Jim quoted Romans chapter one (where God condemns the rebellion of man and allows them to stew in their sin - including sexual perversion), in response and with that they stormed off not wanting to know anything more.
A group of muslim men in the crowd began to rapid fire questions at Jim, the basic assertion of these men was that Jesus was merely a prophet and not God. Jim refuted this rapidly and while interacting with one of the men pointed out the falseness of Islam as a religion - this produced a violent reaction and if the police had not been present I am sure there would have been an assault. I moved in beside Jim quickly while this was happening but was thankful nothing further came of it. In this country hard-line muslims hide behind their minority status and claim that anything that points to the falseness of Islam is ‘Islamophobia'. All the while these same people will boldly declare that all other faiths are false and worthy of only scorn.
At this point I stood up to speak with the muslim man and try and give some other apologetics on top of those Jim had given. I attempted to speak to the man regarding the crucifixion, in particular the contradiction between the Qu'ranic denial of this and history's confirmation of it. At hearing of the witness of Tacitus, Pliney, and Josephus to the appearance of Jesus to the disciples this he only laughed and scorned Christianity as having only a handful of witnesses. Oddly at this point he left very quickly as I would not let him speak to the crowd but rather preached over the top of him. For a short period I discussed Muhammad and if he fits the role of a biblical prophet or not, which he clearly does not with no public miracles, no historically confirmed prophecies, and a life full of murder deceit and indulgence. I spoke for a short period also with an Atheist who spoke to Jim earlier, now he wanted proof that the earth was as old as the bible seems to claim. Again he would not listen and was constantly complaining that I was not answering his questions.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any more chaotic Mr Gnostic arrived and things really went mad. Mr Gnostic began by informing everyone that evil spirits had inspired Christianity, which was a perversion away from the true God, and that Jesus preached karma and reincarnation! Needless to say I loudly and roundly denied this and pointed to the historical Jesus who preached repentance from dead works and a final judgement at the end of life. He then began to rant that the gospels in the bible are only an account of ‘the false roman trial' of Jesus and the ‘true' Gnostic gospels gave the real story. (An interesting thing to note is that there is no trace of the Gnostic gospels until well after the fourth century, when the gospels and indeed the entire New Testament were being circulated throughout the ancient world.) As Mr Gnostic ranted I began to preach over him that Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil, and that special ‘gnosis' or knowledge in his cult is aimed to empower people to become as God - this is a lie direct from Satan. After a short period of ranting and raving and waving his arms about he took off down the mall and did not return. The crowd applauded him and his anti-biblical stance and many of them left. I preached the gospel one last time and then stood down.
Gnosticism teaches that through special knowledge or ‘gnosis' people can through many lives and building up enough good karma become right with God. Indeed it teaches that by this knowledge you can become a little divinity in your own right. This is a fusion of both an ancient Christian heresy and eastern religions, borrowing heavily from Hindu gurus and Buddhism. This cult leaves people hardened in their belief that they can make their own way to God and will ultimately condemn them because even our best works are far short of God's perfect standard.
At the end of all this chaos a young couple, Peter and his wife Nyieve, came up and encouraged Jim and I to keep on preaching the gospel. Peter is interested in street evangelism and so I gave him our contact details and I hope to see him again soon on the streets.
Praise God that in the midst of such chaos the gospel was preached and many people heard. Pray that God above would raise up more labourers for this field of the harvest and most of all that He would save sinners through the faithful (if weak and seemingly foolish) preaching of the gospel.
This Friday markets were set up in Fargate for the long weekend and this can be good and bad. Good because the markets attract people that we can then share the gospel but also bad because they mean that people tend to keep shopping rather than stop to talk or listen.
Jim and I prayed together, asking God to work in the hearts of people as we preached and spoke to people. After this I stood in the midst of the markets and preached, focusing on the meaning of Jesus' name and his role as saviour of sinners. During this a small crowd gathered and listened, within this crowd Ian stood at the front and after listening for a while he began to ask questions. He was an excellent heckler and would ask his questions clearly and loudly and then give me time to answer him. Ian asked many questions about Christianity and I used the opportunity to expound the nature of God, the reliability of the final revelation given in the bible, the position of man as a sinner before God, the certainty of judgement, and again and again gave the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. This was a fantastic interaction and I thank God that He allowed me to participate in it. Within the crowd there were a few Christians and I was encouraged to see some nodding heads and smiles as I proclaimed our great saviour.
Afterwards I chatted shortly with Ian shortly before heading back to work. He shook my hand and thanked me for sharing the gospel with him! As I was heading away I saw Jim discussing things with a pair of young salesmen and giving them an account of the faith we hold.
We pray that God would intervene more frequently and bring interactions like these more often, praise Him for His goodness and wisdom. In all things may His name be glorified and the Saviour Jesus be loved and sought.
Having the day off I set off for Sheffield to witness with John, the markets were still on and there were many people in town. John and I spent some time in fellowship and prayer before witnessing and having committed the day to the Lord began handing out tracts.
There was also a group of people from the local church doing an outreach, they were having an evangelistic sermon that night and were inviting people to come. After handing out tracts for a period and having a few short conversations I set up the preaching post in the centre of Fargate and John stood to preach the gospel. While John preached a young guy I have spoken with before and a pair of the people from the local church stopped to listen. John did a great job I thought and gave a clear appeal for people to repent and trust in Jesus.
Simon and I spoke afterwards; he and I have talked before and he says that he doesn't want to trust in God just because of fear of judgement. We had quite a long conversation about the two equally true characteristics of God, His mercy and His justice. As he left I gave him a tract and urged him to consider carefully the Love and Justice of God shown clearly in Jesus Christ.
While we were talking John was having a hard conversation with the two church folk. The refrain was heartbreakingly familiar "You're judging people and all they will hear is that God is going to send them to hell....". These two young people have swallowed the pragmatic gospel approach of telling people of God's love and forgiveness only without the Holy and righteous demands of God's law and the need of a radical turning from sin. While this may bring accolades from man it is not in line with the gospel as spelled out in the bible (Rom 3:21-24; Acts 17:30-31; Acts 26:20 and many others). They left after condescendingly telling us that they would pray that God would send His Holy Spirit to us (all believers have Him in them dear reader!). We pray that these people would look more closely at our motives and at the bible. We win no accolades for preaching a gospel of repentance and faith, but we do it in obedience to the word of God.
I preached next on the free offer of God to take the heavy burden of sin from us and give us life eternal. Pointing people to the saviour and away from the temporary pleasures of sin in this world I pleaded that people would stop in their current march towards hell.
After lunch we gave out some further tracts and I had some good conversations. Please keep Juanosh in your prayers as he is considering the evidences for the bible and struggling with the contrasts between what God's word says and what the world says. During our conversation today he had been in church before and had not been able to believe. I asked if he had genuinely repented of sin and trusted in the saviour, no was the reply. I pointed him to the impossibility of having relationship with someone if you will not stop doing the things that they hate. Please continue to appeal to God to work among the emo's and goth's of Sheffield, I had a great conversation with a young emo guy and despite the attempts of his friends to stop the conversation he heard the whole gospel.
With this I headed for home and pray that God will use this work.
(Report submitted by David Gee. Photo's edited and published by Josh Mitchell).