The Redlands Easter Festival is an event put on by a large group of Churches in Redland City. The organisers were expecting about 10,000 people to turn up, so we thought it was a great idea to share the gospel there to all those attending. So there were about twelve of us who turned up and after arriving at the festival, we went to sign in at the volunteer’s booth.
Operation 513 had set aside 2,500 Good Aussie gospel tracts for free use at this event. The organisers wanted us to hand out this tract because the theme of the festival this year was the Christian heritage of Australia. So the Good Aussie card suited very well.
The event did seem a little bit smaller than previous years, but there were still stacks of people there. So after signing in, we dispersed ourselves around the showgrounds handing out gospel tracts and getting into conversations with people. During Easter time, it is really easy to hand out gospel tracts, for you simply need to say “Happy Easter” and then hold out the gospel tract to them and almost always the person will take it.
After a few hours, the proportion of people who had received a gospel tract was definitely increasing and so it was becoming a more common thing to hear from people that they already had one. But I found that this was a perfect opportunity to ask them whether they had read it. If they said yes, I could then ask them what they thought of it. If they said no, I would say, “Well it asks you on the back, ‘If you were to die today, would you go to Heaven?’ What do you think?” And that would lead into a gospel conversation.
The usual response to the question of whether the person I was speaking to thought they were going to Heaven was ‘Yes’, for they thought they were good people. People by nature love speaking about how good they are, but the Bible clearly says that no one is good in God’s sight (Rom. 3:10-12). So in order to show people that they are actually sinners in need of forgiveness, I used the method that the Apostle Paul used, I showed them God’s law and how they fared compared to it. “...through the law comes knowledge of sin” – Romans 3:20.
The way I showed them God’s law was by, asking them how good they were, whether they had ever told a lie, ever stolen something, or ever used God’s name in vain. Everyone has committed basically all these laws, and so people usually won’t have a problem admitting that. I would then ask, “Well if those things are some of the standards in which God will judge you after you die, do you think you would innocent or guilty?” They’ll usually say ‘Guilty’. So I ask, “Therefore, do you deserve to go to Heaven or Hell?” This makes most people realise that they are in a very bad situation deserving of Hell, and so then I can talk about the good news of forgiveness.
Since it was an Easter festival, I could then ask them about what Easter is about. A great deal of people I spoke to actually had no idea what Easter is about. Some said, “Yeah I’ve always wondered what Good Friday is, other than being a public holiday.” I then shared about Jesus dying on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve in Hell for our sins. But a person needs trust in Jesus’ death alone for their forgiveness (meaning, not a person’s good works or own goodness) and repent (hate sin and start turning from it), in order to be forgiven. I then shared the meaning of Easter Sunday – that Jesus rose from the dead three after he died.
In the evening, there was an AOG preacher on the main stage that was supposed to give the gospel talk. He started off on John 3:16 and talking about how popular it is to wear shirts that say John 3:16, but he suggested that many people don’t know what the verse says or means. So he read it out. But then he decided to focus on the ‘so loved’ part of the verse. He interpreted ‘so loved’ to mean ‘God loves you soooo much’ in the modern sense of using the word ‘so’. However, that is not what ‘so loved’ means. Instead it actually means ‘loved thusly’ or ‘loved in this way’. The ‘so loved’ in John 3:16 does not mean that God has such a great amount of love for the world, it is rather that God loved the world in this way that He sent His one and only Son... (you can even check it in the Greek - οὕτως)
So the whole main point of his message was completely faulty. He then spoke about how everyone has a desire to come to God. Where does the Bible say that? The Bible says otherwise, in that “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10). He then proceeded to have an altar call, calling people to come to the front and come back to God.
But at no time in his message had he spoken about sin or the fact that we deserve punishment for our sin. Neither did he even speak about Heaven or repentance or that salvation is by grace through faith. He had simply talked about the sheer amount of love God has for everyone and that’s why a person should come back to God. So I knew that basically anyone coming forward could simply not be genuine, since the gospel had not been preached.
There were about 15 people who came forward, and there were a few counsellors going up to them giving them things. So Lindsay and I went to the front and got into a few conversations with a number of those came to the front and shared the gospel with them.
One conversation I had was with I think one of the counsellors, he said he had been saved 8 months. I asked him why he is going to Heaven. He said it is because he has changed his life and is not doing as much sin anymore. But I pointed out to him that changing your life doesn’t forgive your sin, because even if you never sinned again, you still would have the past history of all your sin that God cannot simply overlook. He understood this and said, “Yeah that’s true, I don’t know how I’m going to get forgiveness then.” So I shared the message of Christ’s death on the cross taking the wrath of God that we deserve for our sins if we repent and believe, and it was like something clicked in his mind. He said, “That makes sense, it’s because of Jesus death that I can be forgiven.” He was very appreciative of the chat; I pray that he is genuine.
During this, fireworks began going off, which marked the close of the festival. After they finished the rest of the team made sure to hand out tracts to everyone leaving, while I continued to have chats with those who came to the front.
The festival was good overall in the sense that it was good opportunity to witness to lots of people, both professing non-Christians and also those who attend Church but don’t truly believe. But the ‘gospel’ presentation given by the AOG pastor, Steve Kennedy was absolutely atrocious. The organisers need to seriously rethink who they get to give the gospel talk. The preacher they had last year was actually quite decent. I am not sure why they would scrape so low this year.
Please pray for the thousands of people who received gospel tracts that they would read them and that God would grant these people repentance and faith.
To God be the glory!
Special Outreaches (QLD, Australia)
Australia Day (26 January)
ANZAC Day (25 April)
Christmas Outreaches (December)
New Years Eve (31 December)
Contact Ryan Hemelaar for more information.