I was excited about tonight and as I was preparing for to leave home the idea of being able to stand and preach once again the glories of Christ was really awesome. What privilege we have as fallen human beings to stand and give testimony about our great and merciful God who saved us not because of anything we have done, but rather He saved us by His grace alone, so that He may get all the praise! It is a tremendous honour for any Christian then to stand and declare the good news of salvation to anyone who would listen. And to also plead with them, to look unto Jesus Christ and be saved.
When Andre, Tamara, and I arrived in Brisbane, the first thing we noticed was the fact that the car park was full! Each week for the past few months I have been able to park in the same car park, yet tonight I had to park elsewhere, this of course was a good indication of how busy the night was going to be.
We made our way over to King George Square, and on the way we ran into a good friend of ours who had just returned from a few weeks away on mission trip. Warren has been a real blessing to the team in the whole time he has been coming out with us. And it good to be able to call him a brother and also a friend.
Before too long we were joined by some other team members, and after a bit of a chat about theology, we started to pray for the evening, we prayed that God would be gracious to us, and that He would draw a crowd in for His Glory. We also prayed that He would Sovereignly draw His elect unto Himself.
After this time of prayer, we all opened our Bibles and read the Scripture together. Then once we had finished, we were able to spend some good time in fellowship. And once again discuss theological issues. I have heard other ministry leaders say that one should not talk about theology. I think that as Christians it is good for us to encourage each and other and also challenge each other over different theological thoughts. Of course there is a time and place to discuss such things, and when witnessing that is a time not to talk theology, but when we are fellowshipping together our conversation should be God focused, so it is in those times that we should be talking about the Study of God (theology).
At 9pm, we were in our normal spot in the Queen Street Mall, and we began to set up for the night. As per usual we set up the Bible table, which is a great place to have one to ones, and also to engage in apologetics. Since this table has been set up we have been able to distribute 100's Bibles. This is an awesome privilege, since we have been given the chance to put the very word of God into the hands of people who do not know Him. While it is probably the most expensive part of our weekly outreach, I think it is by far one of the most beneficially to the gospel ministry.
Alistair was the first preacher we had tonight, he has come along way in his preaching. He used to just stand up there and preach for a few minutes then stand down. But now he is preaching for longer periods of time, and he is preaching with a passion. Something I noticed with Ali's preaching is the fact that it is saturated with the Word of God, what I mean is, when he opens his mouth to preach or answers a question he does so with Scripture. This of course is the best way to open air preach, or for that matter, preach in general. As our words really mean nothing, but it is the Word of God that will not return void.
Ali's preached for near on forty minutes, and during that time he was able to engage a few hecklers with the gospel. I must say it is always encouraging to see God raising up more and more open air preachers with the passion to take the gospel to where the lost are.
Just after Ali finished preaching, a drunk man came up and decided to tell us how much God loves him, and how much God hates us. This man was offended and angered at the fact that there were Christians in the mall preaching about Jesus. Even though this man claimed to love Jesus. I tried to deal with this man, but he was too drunk to even have a decent conversation with.
As the drunk man stumbled off up the mall another man appeared to take his place. This man was carrying a Bible, and very quickly declared himself to be a **** evangelist. One didn't need to have the gift of discernment to quickly realise that something was not right.
This man walked up right next to me and said "I've save 200 people from hell!" Then he paused and waited for me to respond. I presume he wanted me to congratlate him on all the people he had saved, yet I couldn't do that. My response was "You didn't save anyone from hell. If they got saved then it was by God's own election." The man quickly replied, "Yeah, I know that but I saved them" then he continued "What has God ever done for me? I hate Him, He does nothing for me!" This is an odd thing for an "evangelist" to say, so I pointed out to him that the very fact that he currently lives, and currently breaths is a sign that God is doing something for him. God doesn't have to give him life, yet it is by an act of kindness that God allows him to live. The man replied rather angrily "If God cared for me, he would give me a job, give me a home, and give me lots of money!"
I pointed out to the man that no where in Scripture does God promise us any of those things. But the man just kept rambling on about prosperity. This man showed clearly the curse that comes from that charlatans on TV that preach "health and wealth" those TV "prosperity pimps" are not ministers of the gospel, but rather they are servants of their own wallet. They cause people to curse God because of their antics, and they are saving up God's holy wrath that will be revealed against them on the day of judgement! (2 Peter 2:3)
The angry and bitter man (who has ever right to be bitter as he was sold a lie) left yelling his hatred for God. So I began to prepare to preach. My opening for the night was going to be on "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?" As I started in on this topic a few people began to gather in and listen, and as I went through an analogy illustrating how in life bad things do happen, I swung to Luke 13 and explained how when Jesus walked on earth He got asked some similar questions.
I pointed out to the people that had stopped to listen that Jesus answered the people by saying "No, unless you repent you also will perish!" As I expounded on that I showed the crowd that the real question is not "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people" but rather "Why would a good God allow bad people to live?" This of course then spring boarded into talking about the total depravity of man, and how apart from God's grace we cannot ever be saved.
God showed His favour towards us by bring back the drunk man from before. The man began to heckle, God used this man's heckling to draw a large crowd in for His glory. The man began to really fire up and the louder he got the bigger the crowd got. Some of the members of the team commented that this was either the biggest crowd we have ever had or the second biggest. I am not sure how big it was, as my focus was on dealing with hecklers and preaching the gospel.
More hecklers began to enter into the discussion, and some of them had genuine and good questions but others were just plain silly. I would say that the majority of the time was spent on the gospel, with very little time being spent on apologetics. We spoke in depth about how bad things happen in this world, and how this is a result of sin. Then we spoke about how society as a whole is sinful, but we must always remember that society is made up of individuals who are sinful.
About half way through I could feel my voice starting to go, this was from the fact that I still hadn't fully gotten over being sick. Then a man came running into the middle of the crowd and through a tract that was on fire in front of me. The crowd erupted in cheers as the gospel burned. This man later on professed to be an atheist, and wanted me to answer the question "Does God exist." I tried to engage him in apologetics but he wasn't interested. He was more interested in performing to the crowd. But at least he stayed, and got to hear the gospel a few more times.
One young bloke decided to be a bit of a clown, so he jumped up next to me and began to mock me while I preached. He turned and passed wind into my face while preaching. The crowd took great delight in this, but I kept on with the gospel. After preaching open air for a few years it takes a bit to really annoy me. This young bloke seemed to think that it was his job to annoy me for the night. The problem is he failed rather miserably.
The next trick this bloke did was to get a handful of ice and pour it down my shirt. Now this being the middle of winter, and being cold already didn't really do much to make me feel good. But I ignored his ice antics and kept on preaching. He decided then that it would be funny to throw stuff at me while I preached. This is not an uncommon thing, so once again I ignored him.
But this young bloke had strong willpower and endurance. He then decided to climb into the garden behind me and proceed to shower me in bark. This once again I ignored, and kept on preaching that Christ Jesus can forgive us of any sins we have committed.
The young bloke seemed to calm down for a short while (maybe to think of new ideas), and during that calm in the storm I was able to freely preach the gospel, and also to answer questions from the crowd.
As it neared the hour mark of the preaching, I knew my voice didn't have much left in it, so I was preparing to tag Ryan in, when our young clown decided to do one more show. This time the man let out a loud yell of "I love you!" then came running towards me at a full pace arms spread wide. Then in for the hug he came. The problem is it wasn't your usual ‘drunken' hug, but rather it was a full on tight embrace. This man was so close to me while he hugged me that I felt like he was attached to me. He then started to talk about how much he liked to hug me, and how much he liked to smell me. This led him to start smelling me while I was preaching. The crowd seemed to enjoy all this. I was able to pry him off me and he said he was leaving. He took a few steps and then turned yelling "I cannot be separated from my love!" Once again he became attached to me. Alex (our regular agnostic heckler) then came over and tried to get the man off me by saying "Let's make them look silly by our arguments, and not by our actions." I really appreciate what Alex tried to do, but the man refused to listen. And once again I was engulfed by his full embrace.
At one point I was able to pry him off my left side only to get him to let go and hug me from my right side. I then called in a couple of the team members to come and get him off me. Snowy came across and was able to wrestle him off me, but the man quickly came running back again. So Snowy grabbed him once more, but this time the man didn't let go of me, so as Snowy pulled, I was pulled off the pulpit. Quickly I was able to get back up and continue to preach.
The young man then came and jumped up on the pulpit with me and once again began to hug me. This time he decided to act like a dog and try to have sex with my leg. Snowy once again pulled him off, and again pulled me down. Once again I was able to jump back up and preach on.
Some of the team members by now had headed down to the police station in order to get some police to come and assist. And they later told me they could see everything that was happening as the police were watching the situation on a TV in the station (probably having a good laugh!). Once the young clown heard that the police were coming he hugged me once more, said he loved me then left up the mall at a very quick pace.
I looked down the mall and could see two police officers approaching, so I handed a large wad of in-depth tracts to Ben and told him to hand them out to all in the crowd. A large number of the crowd took tracts, and the reason I got him to do that was because I knew that once the police arrived the crowd would leave. This is what happened, so I quickly wrapped up the open air. But before I could stand down Alex decided it was time for his weekly heckle. Since my voice was nearly gone, I told him to wait as Ryan would be next, then I turned to the crowd and told them that up next was the debate "Does God Exist?" Quite a number of the crowd stayed as Ryan got up to engage in debate with Alex.
As soon as I got down I was surrounded by a few Christians who were encouraged about seeing the gospel preached in public. This by far is one of the most encouraging things for me as a gospel preacher. I don't want to just preach so that the lost get saved, but I want to be able to encourage other Christians to go do the work of an evangelist.
The rest of the night for me was spent dealing with Christians, some who loved open air, and others who thought we should be doing "healings, signs and wonders".
Ryan preached for the rest of the night, and many one to ones followed. God truly was gracious in allowing His gospel to go forth!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Contact Ryan Hemelaar for more information.
Brisbane Team (Day) (QLD)
Meets Wednesday afternoons 1-5pm in King George Square (near Adelaide St crossing).
Contact Ryan Hemelaar for more information.