This past weekend we were once more back on the street to proclaim the gospel. We arrived at Tooting Broadway a little before 7:30 pm and set about handing out tracts. I did not intend on preaching as I knew I would be preaching later at Leicester Square and also the following morning at Tooting Broadway. We spent about forty minutes or so handing out tracts and talking to people. I managed to talk with three young teenage girls who stopped to talk when I handed them each a million pound note gospel tract.
As we got talking I shared the gospel with them as I would any other. However, it became apparent that they were Christians and that they were on the way to a prayer meeting! I don't make it a habit of not trusting in people but I have seen all too often how quickly someone can say they are a Christian when in reality that is not the case. I asked them if they spoke to their friends about Jesus and they said that they did. I emphasised to them the importance of speaking about sin, righteousness and judgement and that the gospel makes it clear we are to repent of our sin and turn in faith towards the Lord. They seemed a little surprised by this and as I continued to share with them the essentials of true biblical evangelism I could see that they had not received solid teaching concerning the gospel. This is so typical of churches today.
Before they left they each received an in-depth gospel tract. I handed to the girl who had been the most responsive a Ten Commandment coin gospel tract, which has the Ten Commandments on one side and the gospel on the other, and told her to use it to start a conversation with one of her friends. She seemed quite excited by this. Just then their bus arrived and so we said our goodbyes. I received a hug for my efforts but the greatest reward will be to see them all in heaven one day. Please pray that will be the case.
We arrived at Leicester Square at about 8:40 pm. Carl was there to meet us; he's been a real blessing. We had a new face join us as well. My friend Dale from Workington had contacted me earlier in the week to put me in contact with Virgil, a friend of his now living in London. After some brief introductions we made our way over to where we had preached the previous Friday. The artists that line the railing had again said they preferred we did not preach in their "spot." Carl was first up to preach and he preached for about 15 minutes. He is still developing as an open-air preacher and I am sure that the Lord will use him as he continues to step out and preach. He does not use a loud voice when he preaches but he still attracts listeners and a few hecklers too! I have learnt that you learn the most through doing. After he finished I stepped up to preach. It was not long before a sizeable crowd formed. My first heckler was a man named Richard. When he heard me speak of intelligent design and how it proves there is an intelligent Creator, he scoffed. He worked up the crowd to say that the amazing complexity of the human body is not evidence of an awesome Creator. The people cheered in his favour, however it was not long before he had moved on and the people were still standing there listening. A question was asked concerning the crusades, during which time many "Christians" did terrible things in the name of Christianity. I told the crowd that a true Christian is known by his/her fruit and that if someone claims to be a Christian then his/her life must be in accord with what the Bible says. I was really encouraged as I could see this impacted the people's understanding of what a true Christian is.
It wasn't long after this that I was heckled by some young girls who insisted that there was no evidence for God. They were quite forceful in their arguments and appeared even angry. I found out later when talking with the others that they'd had a Christian background and that they had been let down by God in some way. This is tragic. It is quite likely that they came to Christ expecting a bed of roses only to find that this is not the case. This is the terrible result of modern evangelism that seeks to water down the message in such a way that you no longer hear words like sin, righteousness and judgment. The call to repent is rarely heard these days, instead we are told to simply "ask Jesus into our heart." Christ came preaching repentance. So did John the Baptist. So did the apostle Paul. Study church history and you will see it there too. Much of the church today seems to have discovered some new way to preach the gospel. Yet in the book of Galatians we read, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:6-9).
As I was answering their questions and objections a man dressed in civilian clothing approached me and showed me his badge. It was clear he was a police officer. He wanted a word with me and so I stepped down from my ladder to talk with him. His objection to what we were doing centred on the fact that we had accumulated quite a large crowd (to my knowledge probably the biggest I have had so far) and since Leicester Square is a "hotspot" for pick-pocketing crime it makes their job harder to have to deal with a crowd of this size. He also mentioned that we were blocking the thoroughfare with the crowd that we had gathered. I asked him if there was not some other place that we could go and he said no. He was making it appear that he was trying to be helpful but in reality he wanted us gone. I found out later that Leicester Square is his spot and so clearly it was more a case that we were an inconvenience than anything else. He did not say that we were breaking the law and actually said he was not telling us to move but was rather asking us to do so. I had with me an article written by The Christian Institute, which details the law related to street evangelism. I regret that I did not use this to my advantage. I must admit that my experience with the police is not that great and so I was rather accommodating to their wishes. I did protest, but thinking back on it now I could have defended our position much more strongly. The issue that concerned me the most was that it seemed to be coming across that we would not be allowed back to Leicester Square ever again. This is something I am in the process of looking into. I have contacted The Christian Institute, who are helping me in this regard. This Friday we will be trying a different venue, but only because we want to clarify the legalities and the rights that we have. I had been preaching for about 27 minutes before I was stopped so I praise God for the time that He gave us. It was just passed 10:30pm when we were stopped and as we leave around 11:00 pm anyway we decided to spend the next half hour or so handing out tracts and talking with people. The events with the police had shaken us up a little and we were not quite ourselves afterwards. This was somewhat new territory for us and one which we knew would come eventually. We need to learn from this so that we will handle it better in the future. Please pray that the Lord would help us and that He would give us much wisdom.
Saturday came around and it was back to Tooting Broadway. Antonio met myself and Phil at 11:30 am and not long after Barney (another member from my church) joined us as well. We began by handing out gospel tracts and speaking with people first. I approached a young girl who had dyed pink hair as well as a great amount of makeup on. As we got talking she mentioned that she was homosexual. Her name is Kitty and she is just 16. She was quite willing to talk and said that she enjoyed conversations regarding God and life after death. She mentioned that she did not see her homosexuality as a sin and that she was simply born that way. This can be a challenging objection to have to deal with. We need to emphasise that God has created both male and female and that the Bible does not allow for homosexuality. This can be a sensitive topic and we need to be careful when talking with people who are engaged in this kind of sin. This does not mean that we agree with them that their homosexuality is not a sin. The Bible clearly says it is very much a sin in God's eyes. However, so is lying, theft, blasphemy and idolatry. I spoke to her of how we can know that there is a God, that the Bible is a true and trustworthy book (click on this link to see why) and that if the Bible is indeed true then we all have to give an account of ourselves before Him one day. I was able to share the gospel with her and leave her with a couple of tracts. Please pray for her. Another chap I got to speak with was Zeff. It was not a long chat but I was able to share the whole counsel of God with him. He thanked me but I sensed that he was simply being polite. I stressed to him the importance of thinking through what I had said. He left with a gospel tract and so do pray for him.
After we had all handed out a good number of tracts and spoken with quite a few people I stood up to preach open-air. Some people did stop to listen; this prompted Barney to whizz about handing out tracts to them. Towards the end of my message I was approached by a man named Keith. He began by heckling me and speaking against the veracity of Scripture as well as the Christian faith itself. After a little while I came down off my ladder and spoke with him in a more personal way. It turned out that he does believe in God and it was clear that he is searching. He told me that he was an alcoholic and that he struggled to give it up in his own strength. He asked God to help but the help never seemed to come. I had a real heart for this guy. I told him that in our own strength we will fail but if we put our trust in Christ we can overcome.
I shared the complete gospel with him and urged him to turn from his own strength. He still seemed convinced that he could save himself if he just tried hard enough. I helped him to understand that salvation is a free gift. If we try and "buy" the gift then it is no longer a gift. When we try and earn our salvation we are in affect trying to buy the free gift that God offers to all who repent of their sin and trust in Him alone. This really helped Keith and he appeared most grateful as he left. I invited him to church and he said that he would come, unfortunately he did not come that Sunday and so it is my hope and prayer that I will see him again, hopefully at church! Praise God, we'd had another great weekend of ministry!
Soli Deo Gloria!