In November we were able to have some significant conversations with people in the Toowoomba CBD. The first of these conversations occurred between Merv and a group of teenagers. This group was eager to engage and spent a fair bit of time talking with Merv regarding spiritual things. During the course of the discussion, a number of them claimed that they didn’t believe in Christianity due to evolution.
This is a very, very common objection with younger people and so Merv began to unpack some of the issues surrounding this important topic. As Merv was speaking his wife, Alisa, came over and also began to speak with the teens. One of the teens picked up that Alisa was agreeing with Merv and asked her “Are you with him?”, a statement which delighted our faithful husband and wife team. The conversation eventually wound down and the teens took some tracts and were left with much to think about.
Another one of our team members, Sarah, had a much different conversation. She struck up a conversation with an older bloke who said he was once a Christian but had stopped following Christ. He also intriguingly believed that everyone will be in Heaven one day. It was a difficult dialogue and the bloke didn’t really want to talk. In moments like these, it’s best to respectfully leave the conversation to another day and so Sarah bid the man farewell and continued on.
In all honesty, speaking with people who describe themselves as “ex-Christian” is often the most painful part of following Christ, especially if they are your friends or family. Few experiences are more emotionally agonising, though it shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus predicted that many would follow Him yet eventually choose to turn away from Him. He even included this warning in a number of His parables, such as in the parable of different soils (Matt 13:18-23) and of wheat and weeds (Matt 13:24-30, 36-42).
Consider Judas, who saw spent three years living side by side with Jesus. Judas travelled with Jesus, healed people with Jesus, saw countless miracles by Jesus and shared numerous meals with Jesus. If Judas could turn away from Christ after following Him into full-time ministry, how much more should we be to prepared for the reality of apostasy* in our own midst? How much more do we be prepared to live together with and love those who have turned away from Christ?
It’s not over till it’s over...and thankfully God has brought many a Prodigal son (and daughter) back to Himself over the years. This is a hope that drives our ministry on the streets whenever we encounter ex-Christians. We have the beautiful hope of a powerful, patient Father whose children can take a million steps away from yet need to take only one step back.
All in all, it was a challenging outreach and we look forward in faith to see what God will do in the coming weeks and months in the lives of the people of Toowoomba.
*Some helpful resources on the topic:
Christmas Lights Outreach
Each year our team has the privilege of handing out Gospel tracts at the Queen’s Park Christmas Lights festival. We met together at 6pm and after a time of prayer we split into pairs to cover the various footpaths around the event. As usual, it was extremely busy and almost everyone we encountered was in a festive mood and were happy to take tracts. We were able to hand out a couple of hundred tracts in a very short period of time.
We had one memorable encounter with a volunteer from the event. She walked over to us and say quite pointedly “What are you fellows handing out?” I responded, “Gospel tracts ma’am”.
Suddenly her entire demeanor changed and with a big smile, she exclaimed “Great stuff! Praise the Lord!” and with a spring in her step, she returned back to her post. Talk about a change of attitude!
At the end of the night, we assembled together again and told stories of how our respective adventures went. God has blessed us with an incredible team and as we look to the future we’re excited to see everything our amazing and faithful God has in store for us in 2019.
Toowoomba Team (QLD)
Meets the 3rd Saturday of each month at 11am at the Margaret St McDonalds. The team also meets the 1st Thursday night of each month for prayer.
Contact Doug Espie for more information.