Friday was warm and breezy and in the sunshine with the beauty of the green countryside all around it was easy to think of the great blessings that God has given this country. One particular blessing we have is the freedom to stand and give the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus by grace through faith. Jim, Peter and I joined in prayer before Jim began to preach.
Jim began by discussing the very prevalent thought that "All religions are equally valid". Jim did an excellent job of showing that polytheistic Hinduism and atheistic Buddhism have very little in common with the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Likewise he showed the foolishness of saying salvation is by working hard (Buddhism and Islam for example) is the same as salvation by grace (Christianity). As Jim preached on this I prayed that God would draw in a crowd and I was pleased to see that a couple of people were gathering around. As a group of four of them left I went to intercept them with a tract and was caught in a wonderful witnessing encounter.
After five or ten minutes I turned back to the preaching and found that God had graciously answered prayer and drawn a crowd of 40-50 people. As Jim was hard at it with Muslim apologetics, I went and stood by him as a support as Muslims can be very aggressive sometimes.
Jim kept at it for some time and gave a great defence of Christianity and preached the gospel a couple of times over. The crowd was a real mix with atheist and Muslim and agnostic hecklers and even a couple of Christians smiling encouraging and amending to Jim's words. After a period Jim tagged me in as his voice was going and the crowd was not abating at all.
I jumped up and engaged the couple of Muslims that had been heckling by asking them to consider what Jesus said. From this I discussed many different topics including the veracity of God's revelation with an atheist through to the deity of a philosopher cum Muslim. As often as I could I pointed people back to the glorious gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. Though there are many different objections and protests against the preaching of the gospel, the crux of the issue for most revolves around the question "Who do you say I am?" (Mt 16:15-16). There are only two possible reactions to Jesus, He is either the Lord God or He is to a lesser or greater extent despised and rejected.
After almost 2hrs of continuous preaching and apologetics between Jim and I, the crowd was still present but neither of us had any voice to continue. As I closed I was glad to see that many people had tracts in hand, but unfortunately with only three people in the team we were only able to talk with a handful of people before the crowd dispersed. Please join us in praying that there would be more people raised up in Sheffield to witness with us so that these great opportunities would not be wasted.
With the rain coming down and the weather more consistent with winter rather than summer Anna and I headed into Sheffield, after a time of prayer together we walked into Fargate and I set up to preach under the trees.
As I preached a couple of girls stopped in a nearby shop and then approached to find out what I was doing. I went through the good person test with the three of them but unfortunately they left shortly after getting through the law and it's demands. It is very common that people will leave or begin to object when they come under the magnifying glass of God's standard. I agree that this is an uncomfortable thing, but as any good doctor will tell you, sometimes we need to go through difficult and painful experiences in order to live (cancer treatment for example).
Shortly after this a group of three American missionaries stopped and asked me if I thought that street preaching and witnessing "worked". This is entirely the wrong question, I am in no position to tell if witnessing of any kind works, God is able to see the end results I cannot. I told them that the reason that we witness on the street, is because of the great opportunities God provides there. Many of the people we are able to share the gospel with, are not only "un-churched" but rather they and their parents have never attended church. These people do not look at church as something they know and have no interest in, but rather it is as foreign to many as it would have been to the first British pagans.
After closing we began to give out tracts and talk with whoever would speak to us. I had a wonderful encounter with a young couple that I was able to share the gospel with and though they had to leave for work they left with tracts. Anna also spoke at length with one of the charity workers and though she thought she would be going to heaven because she was good she heard Anna willingly. Just before the rain began in earnest and we went home Anna also spoke with two young men and again the gospel was given and we pray they would turn to Jesus and be saved.