On Friday evening we were back at Leicester Square to preach the gospel to the people of London. The previous Friday we'd had some trouble with one of the artists who trades in front of the railing that runs along the promenade of where we meet to minister. I was a little anxious as I was not sure what the response would be like this week. We've been going to Leicester Square now for well over six months and so we do feel settled and of course keen to stay. I believe it to be a great venue for the ministry we do. As it turned out my fears were justified. Our disgruntled artist was certainly out to make his displeasure felt. Each artist has a temporary license they pay that allows them to trade in a specific spot of the promenade. It is a marked out spot that they can use. I made the point that we were not trading, consequently we did not need a license as did the artists. The complaint against us centered on the idea that we would infringe upon his spot with the crowd that we would undoubtedly gather. I certainly do not boast in our ability to do this, in fact I can't help thinking how amazing it is that we are able to do this week in week out. I can only say that God is our provider and that He is the one who is drawing the people for us.
If you read my report from last week you would have noticed that I had to stop preaching due to some rather aggressive Muslim men. The crowd had grown large and it did in fact spill over to the area next to us. Even though this was an unusual case and influenced by some aggressive Muslims, we were conscious of the fact that our artist friend did have his business to run. Consequently we moved over as far as we could. However this did not seem to appease him and it was starting to become clear to me that he simply did not want us there, preaching something he did not want to hear in an area that he believes is reserved for artists only. We were in a bit of a quandary as to what we should do and spent at least half an hour or so debating amongst ourselves as to our course of action. I was becoming rather frustrated as I could see that time was escaping us. In the end we decided that I would still preach and should the crowd behave the way it had the previous week I would move even further to the left. So after spending some time in prayer I stood up to preach. Phil kindly manned the table we had laid out that was loaded with tracts and free Bibles. I have to confess that it took me a while to get going as I was feeling a little unsettled. God was good to us though and before long we drew in a crowd. My first hecklers were some young teenagers who stood nearby and threw a number of questions at me. They defended the idea that they were good people and so I took them through the commandments to show them that they were in fact sinners in the hands of an angry God. A young girl who was with them, and had picked up a Bible (you can see her holding it in the picture above), became quite passionate when she heard me say that God sent His only Son to die in the place of sinners. It was rather interesting because prior to her saying that I had explained to her that since God cannot justify the wicked (according to His own law - Proverbs 17:15), our predicament is grave indeed. If we, being wicked, cannot be justified by God because of our wickedness, what hope do we have of being justified before Him? How can we be justified?! I put this question to her, and you know what? She came back with the right answer! Someone would have to pay the penalty for us. And so that is what led me to explaining to her what God has done for sinners by sending His own to Son to die on the cross. She questioned how a loving God could possibly allow His own Son to die in the place of others. I explained to her that Christ came to this earth willingly and that He also went to the cross willingly (John 10:17-18). Christ knew that He would rise again, since it would not be possible for death to keep a hold of Him (Acts 2:24).
As time progressed our crowd did become larger and so I moved further to the left. A young Australian man started to heckle me and we became locked in a debate concerning creation verses evolution. He was actually enjoying himself and it was obvious that he wanted to have a good old banter. He was the perfect heckler because he kept the crowd and I could see that he was not the sought to take things too far. I kept him hooked by throwing some humour back at him, saying things like, "Come on man, use your head, there must be a God!"
Later on after I had finished preaching Andrew Noble got into a good one-to-one conversation with him. Andrew is also from Australia so I thought it was just perfect that the two of them got talking. As I carried on preaching a lady from the crowd asked me why women have ended up with such a raw deal in that they have to go through such pain in child birth. She understood that it was because of Eve's sin but still felt it was a raw deal. I thought for a minute and then simply said to her, "Ma'am that is something you will have take up with God." The answer was not what she expected and it was clear that she was at a loss as to how to respond.
Shortly after I got talking with a Muslim lady, who called herself Faith. She also had some Muslim friends with her. I explained to her why Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). She said that she respected other religions but wanted to make the point that Islam makes more sense than Christianity, due largely in part to their belief that God is not Trinitarian. I explained to her that God has revealed Himself in His Word as one in essence, three in person, and that settles it. This got us talking about the veracity of the Bible. I gave a solid defence for the Bible and showed them how it is far more authenticate that any other book in all of antiquity. Carl had one of his placards that showed how science confirms the Bible, since we can find many scientific facts in its pages. I got a lot of scoffs at this point and a lot of unreasonable objections. I responded by pleading with them to be reasonable and to listen to what I had to say. It was at this point that I got pulled aside by a police officer who warned me that religious debate can lead to a breach of the peace. I responded by saying I understood but that no breach of the peace had yet occurred, and I also pointed out that political marches and campaigns have as much potential to cause a breach of the peace as does the discussion of religion. I got back up to preach and addressed the crowd with a final plea for them to turn to Christ to escape the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). I had preached for well over an hour and addressed a number of questions and topics. The gospel had been clearly preached and so I was very grateful to the Lord.
Coming down from my ladder a young man approached me and asked if I had a copy of the scientific facts in the Bible that I had shown whilst preaching. Carl had some in a tract format so it was great to be able to give him the resource. I then got talking with him for about half an hour or so. It turned out that his Dad is a pastor and so he had a fair amount of Bible knowledge, even though he professed to be an agnostic. I reasoned with him from the stance of creation and conscience and then took him through the law and the gospel. At the end of the conversation all I could do was to plead with him, that he think carefully about his sin, how his sin condemned him to hell, and that he should flee to the Saviour, not simply to escape the terrors of hell, but ultimately because Jesus had been so kind to save sinners just like him from hell (Romans 2:4).
Andrew Blake, Carl, Andrew Noble and Philip were busy too, talking with people and handing out tracts. Philip has kindly written a short report of some of the opportunities he had for the evening...
I was manning the "Free Bibles" table. While Rob was preaching, several people came up to ask for New Testaments. A man known as "Mac" took a New Testament to read and asked for prayer so I prayed with him. Another man came up and asked for a Bible. He said he'd read some of the Bible already and I was able to encourage him to read more of God's word to him so that he could get to know God better.
After Rob had finished preaching after being interrupted by a keen policeman, I got talking to a lady who'd been in the crowd and was sticking up for Rob. She is a Roman Catholic and although she liked to talk, I was able to rehearse with her what Rob had been preaching on i.e. the Law and God's gift of Grace in sending Christ Jesus. I don't know how much was being taken in, but I encouraged her to trust in what Jesus had done alone, and not to put any faith in her own works which are like filthy rags before God. God being holy cannot accept anything that is tainted with sin, even the best of our works are not acceptable to Him outside of what Christ already did in dying on the cross for those who will repent and put their trust in this very work He did for them.
It truly was a great evening. Our artist friend was still complaining to the police at the end of it all, but praise God, they were on our side and told him plainly that we had a right to stand there and preach.
Please pray for all those who heard the gospel, as well those who took tracts and Bibles.
Soli Deo Gloria!