Since moving to Goulburn from Brisbane a few months ago, I have been looking for an opportunity to start a new Operation 513 evangelism team. And now it appears as if that opportunity has arisen. Being located in Goulburn (as the pastor of Goulburn Baptist Church), I have found myself strategically located just 50 minutes from the nation’s capital – Canberra. I have heard many stories about evangelism in Canberra, and the hardness of the people, and I am able to report that the accounts I have heard are true. The people in Canberra seem to be very hardened towards the Gospel. Yet, in their hardness I find hope, since Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and those who have hardened their hearts to Him are among the biggest sinners around.
After spending some time trying to figure out when it would be best for evangelism we settled on planning a weekly outreach on Saturday afternoons from 2pm-4pm in Garema Place in Civic (Canberra CBD).
On July 9th was the first afternoon of the outreach, and amongst the hardness we did find some people who were more than willing to take tracts, talk to use about the Gospel and even to listen to us open air preach.
I arrived in Civic at 2pm and was soon joined by Merhawi who is a part of the Westminster Presbyterians in Canberra. He’d been witnessing in this part of Canberra before so I valued his wisdom and insight on the best spots to witness. As we began to hand out tracts our eyes were drawn to a large group of black African wearing white shirts. This group was handing out some kind of literature, and were walking around with TV quality video cameras and microphones. Deciding that this looked interesting, we made our way to one man and asked what was happening. Turns out this group was a new Pentecostal church plant in Canberra, and what they were doing was handing out a devotional written by their apostle (warning bells) in Texas. They provided me with a copy of the devotional and then asked me to smile to the camera and thank this apostle. I refused, gave the man a tract and then proceeded to walk off. Shortly after this we ran into another group of people from this same church, so I decided to quiz them on the Gospel. As I spoke to them I was very surprised that they were solid on this front. They explained to me the need of salvation, the cross, repentance and faith. Although their church is on the dodgy side with Apostles (dodgy cause Apostles have ceased), they had the gospel correct. We handed the group some tracts and then continued to walk around Civic handing out tracts.
As we were walking I handed a tract to a man who was walking around with a football, he seemed interested in talking, so we engaged him with the Gospel. It turns out that this man’s name is Mick, and he considered himself to be an ‘in-between good person’, although he had just admitted to robbing a lady around the corner! He was hard to witness to, as he seemed to be under the influence of alcohol, but I preserved, made sure he understood sin, and then understood who Jesus is. Mick took a tract, thanked us and then walked away. My prayer is that God would save yet another drunk and transform his life.
As we continued to walk around Garema Place in Civic, we noticed a young Asian man handing out books, so we walked up to him and asked what he was up to. It turns out this man was a part of an Eastern mystic religion, and he was handing out books about what his “master” had taught. The books focus was how if we all eat vegan, then global warming would cease. We spoke to him for a bit about his beliefs, it turns out that he believes that all religious roads to lead to paradise, and that we will be reincarnated. He went on to explain that reincarnation teaches that we will be judged for our good deeds and bad deeds, then depending on how much karma we have, will determine what we come back to earth as. Upon hearing this I asked Lang (the Eastern mystic) who it was that actually did the judging when we die, who determines if we have done enough good or bad. He paused for a moment then said, “We judge ourselves, our true selves will determine that.” To which I replied, “But most men will proclaim their own goodness, so surely we will all judge ourselves good and come back as humans.” Lang disagreed, and said that we all judge ourselves correctly, and we can trust our judgements. So I asked Lang, “Have you ever been wrong about something?” To which he admitted he had, so I followed up by asking, “How can you trust your judgements then? How do you know that you are correct concerning reincarnation?” Lang went on to try and explain how we can’t really know anything in and of ourselves, but rather we need an outside source to tell us. I asked what that outside source was, and he said it was his master. She was always right, so we can trust her, as she is a religious leader just like Jesus and Muhammad. The conversation then went down the path of all religions being the same, so I started to talk about ‘Master’ Jesus and how His teachings make Him unique. I showed him that Jesus claimed to be the only way of salvation, and if that is true, then all religions aren’t the same. Lang didn’t believe us, and insisted that all masters are equal. We presented the gospel to him, and I left him with a tract explaining who Jesus is. Please remember Lang in your prayers. May Jesus save him and deliver him out of the kingdom of darkness.
After this I managed to get a quick conversation with Curtis, who wasn’t sure where he was going. He didn’t seem very interested but still took a tract. May Jesus save him.
As the day drew towards an end, we decided it would be good to open air preach. So I set up my box in Garema place and began to preach on the frailty of human life. A few people stopped (probably 20-30) and a few hecklers emerged. One man claimed to be a Christian and he had a go at me for preaching from the Old Testament, so I went to the New Testament to prove what I was saying. This man then made the claim, “Jesus died so I can live in sin.” That was a statement I had to go after. I took him to 1 John and explained that if we live in sin, then it shows we aren’t of God, but rather we are of the devil. This seemed to quiet him down for a bit. The next heckler that came along decided to yell abuse at me and swear at me for “telling people my opinions in public”, he said no-one should shout their opinions. I pointed out he was being a hypocrite, as it was his opinion that no one should shout their opinion. He swore and walked off. The next heckler decided he would try and drown out the preaching by taking off his shirt (in freezing temperatures), put on a wig and play the saxophone really loudly. I used this distraction to explain how people love their sin and hate Jesus, and that they will do anything to silence the gospel.
A few people stayed to listen to the end. At about 4:30pm, I finished up and we headed home. Praise God for a good first day. May the ground in Canberra be ploughed up and may the seed of the Gospel take root.
Soli Deo Gloria!