Our last two outreaches have been radically different from one another.
This outreach was discouraging for a number of us. There was a very real, almost tangible spiritual hardness in the CBD and very few people would receive tracts or even less people would engage in conversation. Normally the majority of people take tracts and a small minority want to engage in spiritual discussions. Not today. After almost an hour of persistent rejections, our team was tired. There was however, one conversation that myself (Doug) and Elisa had with two older Indigenous men.
When we offered them a tract, D-- and N—told us they have their own spirituality. When I asked them what they believed, they said they believed in Indigenous spirituality. As the conversation progressed, they explained that they believed that history runs in a cycle (there is no such thing as “progress” in history) and that the Mother Spirit inhabits the Earth. This spirit is personal and is expressed in every created thing. This Mother Spirit has a particular relationship with the original inhabitants of Australia, as they cared for nature and lived in (relative) harmony with it. One day Mother Earth will cast out all non-Indigenous people from Australia and history will once again reset.
It was at this point that things took an unexpected twist. At first, D—and N—claimed that Indigenous people are the first of Mother Earth’s creation and are the “most pure”. Everyone else in the world are “less pure” races that were created afterward. A little while later they changed this somewhat racist claim to instead say that every race is descended from the original inhabitants of Australia. Those races who inhabit land outside of Australia were cast out many millennia ago for violating tribal law.
Throughout this time, Elisa and I did our best to listen respectfully and also to gently probe how they knew these things to be true. D—and N—replied that Indigenous culture is the longest surviving culture in the world, and therefore their beliefs must be true. Before I could point out that this doesn’t necessarily follow (non-sequitur fallacy), both men said that Christianity was false because it was a crutch for the weak and the Bible had been changed many times.
Elisa then powerfully shared how God had been a crutch for her through many difficult seasons and together we explained how every person on Earth uses a crutch to get through life’s difficulties. Whether it’s alcohol, family relationships, an upcoming holiday...you name it, we all use crutches. The real question is whether they will break in our hands when we lean on them heavily enough. I shared that only the infinite God is strong enough to bear the weight of our pain and suffering, because every finite thing and every finite person we use as a crutch will one day fail us.
D—then fell back on the “Bible has been changed many times” objection. This objection requires a small amount of historical knowledge and explanation to defuse*, but unfortunately due to time restrictions Elisa and I needed to go. Overall, this conversation went for over an hour and Elisa and I spent the majority of the time listening, which is in many ways one of the most crucial skills for all Christians to grow in when engaging with others. We hope that this discussion was one that could open doors to future dialogue and all four of us shook hands on good terms and departed.
Once we returned to our team we heard just how hard the day had been for many of us. In hindsight, we all know some months will be harder than others, but the challenge for us to trust God as He refines us and to hold firm to His promises. Jesus is the good King and we are thankful that He sees our difficult days and is powerful enough to mould everything together for our good. Not because we are good...but because He is love (1 John 4:16) .
*For info on how to deal with "The Bible has been changed many times" objection
This month we introduced the OP513 flip-chart into our ministry. This flip-chart has the “Good Person Test” on it and is designed to be set up and used to engage interested groups of people who come over for a chat or through open-air preaching. After the team ran a few practice runs, we split up to either draw interest to the chart or to hand out tracts and begin conversations.
It wasn’t long before two interested teenagers came over to Merv and I to do the “Good Person Test”. A—and H—were friendly young men who engaged the presentation and asked some good questions. After we had shared the Gospel, A—said “This makes sense! I’ve heard about this in Youth Group!” We encouraged both of them to engage a Youth Group and gave them some tracts as they left to consider.
We then switched gears and Merv began to preach, using the chart as a guide. He did an exceptional job and I noticed a number of interested people at the traffic lights with their windows down watching the presentation.
Overall it was a very interesting outreach. We praise God for the privilege of sharing His good news for humanity through words, flip-charts, tracts and the many varied ways that He has allowed us to use this month. Only in eternity will we know the true impact in people’s lives.
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.