Hobart Team (TAS)
Elizabeth Street Mall.
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There is some opposition to the work in Hobart's CBD that has begun to make itself felt. This has primarily come in the form of increased aggression and abuse from our "regular heckler" Mr S.. Please continue to pray for him, he needs salvation and the peace of God.
This week we where initially unable to enter the mall due to the Lady Mayoress making an inspection of the new street cleaning machine. This was turned into a blessed opportunity as Mitchell and I were able to hand out 80 or so tracts in the space of 30 minutes. Praise God for those 80 little soldiers of The Lord, they will never sleep, never get tired of preaching the gospel and be patiently waiting for whoever looks at them. I love giving people tracts, they will turn up in some of the most interesting and astonishing places.
The Bible table has continued to be a source of good conversations, this week we had three good conversations that occurred around the table.
Ms A. - has recently lost her son due to suicide and struggles with a neighbour who is abusive. Yet in-spite of this she is an active member of the Salvation Army church here in Hobart. We were able to talk at length and encourage each other.
Mr A. - a long term contact of Carl's, he is a Shia Muslim and they have had many conversations and discussed the person of Jesus many times. Please pray for him that he would follow the true prophet and only saviour Jesus Christ.
Preaching this week focused initially on the two prisoners in Bali and what a scandal it would be if their lawyer was to offer to take their place. Yet this is exactly what we see in the work of Jesus our Lord, He takes the place of sinners who hate Him so that they can come into a loving relationship with God.
Romans 5: 6-11
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Mr S. as always had some very forceful opinions to air and some very aggressive opposition he directed at the team. Ironically Mr S. thinks that the forgiveness of sin is one of the most shameful aspects of the gospel. He preaches for me in a backhanded manner, parading around the scandal of forgiveness of even the most evil through Jesus. He equally thinks that hell is abhorrent and will preach on how horrible God's punishment of sinners in hell is. Through all of this I try to provide the theological correctives needed and let him preach the gospel!
Interspersed through the various rants (he was not in a good mood this week for some reason) that Mr S. had this week a few other people asked questions:
Three high school girls - asked about homosexuality and divorce. I spoke with them about God's model for sexuality and marriage (a loving Christlike husband serving and his wife submitting to his love). I also emphasised as I have to frequently that Christians are called to love and respect people even when they must identify a lifestyle as sinful and leading to hell. One of the girls was very affected by by the preaching and took a bible afterwards. Please pray that she would love the giver of these good gifts not the just gifts.
Homosexual man - protested that the bible is written by man and we cannot know any of it is true (Chinese whispers scenario). There are so many good responses to this that we are spoilt as Christians. I provided a couple of reasons to believe but he left scoffing. Please pray that God would open both his ears and his heart to hear the truth.
One high school guy - as a secularist this guy essentially wanted to stop the preaching because it is forcing Christianity on others. He stayed afterwards for a period and listened to the discussions/debates that happened. He did not engage a lot but would comment from time to time. Please pray that he will consider carefully what he has heard and will come again and be changed by the gospel as he hears it.
It was a full week and afterwards there were good discussions that continued for an hour after we finished. Please pray for the people of Hobart, many that I do not interact with hear the gospel and need salvation through Jesus Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give them life and bring them to Jesus. Pray to The Lord of the harvest to save souls and send workers into the fields of Hobart.
Most of all please pray that God would be glorified in all that we do and say and that he would keep us from the many stumbling blocks that litter the path of this ministry.
The last two weeks have been a real mix of interesting interactions, both around the bible table and during the preaching. I normally begin the day with the bible table set out and give people an opportunity to approach me and discuss and take literature. Later in the day I will get up and preach for a period of about an hour.
While the time around the bible table is quieter than the preaching with less hecklers, I love the opportunity it provides for the less bold to come and talk. This week I managed to sit down to pray for only a couple of minutes at a time. Praise God my prayers were constantly interrupted by the very people that I was praying for! Most people were repeat visitors and we were able to continue our conversations from previously.
Mr M. stopped by, he is a skeptic who enjoys discussion with Christians and stopped shortly to discuss with me again but could not stay long.
A couple of young ladies stopped to chat, one of them had previously attended my church but had since stopped attending. Both of them appeared to be heavily influenced by the new age movement, speaking of meditation and the like, voicing doubts about the bible, and insisting that God is only love. I gently spoke with them of the seriousness that we must have when God says that he doesn't love our sin but loathes it with a holy and consuming hatred. I urged them to listen to the warnings and the promises of the bible. It is wonderful to consider the love of God when he is our father, but we must first come to him the way he calls us, through faith in Jesus.
A young satanist who has heard the gospel many times also came with a question. How could Eve be a woman given the bible says that she was made from the side of Adam a man? I pointed out that God is the ultimate geneticist, and to remove a Y chromosome and duplicate the X to "change Eve's sex" would child's play for him who made the DNA code in the first place. This seemed to satisfy him but of course he said he would come back with other questions and left unchanged by the information.
Please pray for all these folk, they need the Holy Spirit to give them life and bring them to Jesus in faith. Pray that God would act in mercy for Hobart. Pray that his ministers in this city would be faithful in proclaiming the gospel whenever they can.
The preaching has been very busy and I have very slowly been preaching through the first chapter of Romans. Many people react strongly to this book of the bible, not surprisingly as God speaks bluntly of our sin and his hatred of it and of the saviour Jesus Christ.
Last week a group of homosexual youth gathered together to condemn my "hate speech" and protest that I was doing the wrong thing in many ways. Mr S. (a regular atheistic heckler) as he often does joined in encouraging them to heckle as much as possible. Interestingly many of them stayed to talk after I had repeatedly shared the gospel and given apologetics on the God given model for human sexuality - marriage. We talked sitting on the ground for around an hour and went our separate ways on good terms. One very telling moment was when a young man said that I was advocating a homosexual genocide. I turned to the rest of the group and asked them if I had said anything even remotely close to that. They all said no and one young lady said that I had repeatedly underlined that I loved homosexuals and that was why I was preaching the gospel. This was a turning point in the conversation and from then on I was able to more freely share with them. One of them even showed an interest in meeting to talk further.
This week I spoke of the vile nature of sin and how it pollutes our lives and even when we struggle against it we can never break free of it in our own power. I also spoke of God's hatred of this sin and the natural consequence that will come of continued rebellion and rejection of God. I also spent a little time discussing the glorious world that God has put us in and how every scrap of it proclaims God's divine nature and eternal power. This lead to a group of hecklers responding to my words. Many arguments were put forward but always answered with an eye to the cross, which is always the real issue, even if it is unsaid.
One of the most interesting moments was when Mr S. asked me to list the three things that keep me from doing evil. I said that first my relationship with God does, then his commands do and lastly the love for my neighbour that he has given me does. What keeps Mr S. from evil? Nothing. It is purely his choice. It is not often that an atheist is as honest as this so I thought an application of this principle would be good. Here is how I put it : Say Mr S. and I get really angry, so angry that we want to kill each other. The person who determines my moral position on murder is utterly unmoved by my temper and murderous rage, God still hates murder no matter what I think. The person who determines Mr S.'s moral position on murder it currently considering doing it and so of course is very much swayed and changed. Atheism provides no hope of any restraint of evil deeds and more than that it provides no hope of any endurance in good deeds.
There were many hecklers and the gospel was preached many times and my day ended with a couple of hours sharing with a young marxist who had heckled earlier. While the team were talking to others in the crowd, we talked at length. I encouraged him to turn to Jesus as marxism will ultimately let him down, as will any lesser thing than God himself.
Please continue to pray for Mr S. and the many hecklers that come to speak to me, they are people with a great need. Pray that God would show them his glory, their sin and the wonderful saviour our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is my first report on the work in Hobart CBD so I will give you readers a brief outline of what has happened over the last 12 months.
After negotiations the council down here has allowed freedom of speech in Hobart CBD in one particular area of the Elizabeth Street mall. This allows preaching and limited tract distribution for 4 hours twice a week. While it is far from complete freedom it is an opportunity that we praise God for. Over 2014 a small group from the church I attend (Cornerstone Presbyterian) have been witnessing successfully in the mall. This has involved preaching, tracts and one to one conversations fortnightly.
The response to this has been strong enough to merit a longer weekly outreach which will happen each week on a tuesday. We will meet in the mall from 12pm until 5pm to use a bible table and hand out tracts and preach the gospel of God's grace.
This tuesday was quite good, we almost ran out of bibles. Despite a relatively windy day the bible table was quite useful with people stopping regularly from 12-3pm to chat and take bibles. I was able to share the gospel with one man who stopped by and also encourage the couple of Christians that came by to encourage me.
Preaching this week was a mixed response, I was preaching from Romans. Rm 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. It was a simple gospel message of salvation to all who repent and believe in Jesus, no matter who they are or what they've done. A small crowd gathered to hear and I was blessed with the presence of fellow believers in the crowd praying while I spoke.
At first no-one interacted with me but then one lady started to protest that what I was saying was nonsense (not the word she used...). I attempted to engage her on this but then quickly her boyfriend chimed in that I should shut up. This quickly escalated into a lot of them shouting and telling me to go away in foul language. I was worried that the guy might try to knock me down as he promised, but it was the lady who took a swing when I wasn't looking and got me on the jaw.
At that the pair of them took off and I had the undivided attention of a moderate group of people who had just seen me struck! Talk about God sent opportunities! I preached the gospel and pointed out that outside of Christ I and everyone listening were no different from this hate filled couple in the eyes of God. We all have hated God in our own ways and because of this need a saviour. I urged the listeners to turn to Jesus and trust in him and continued in that vein for some time.
This was made interesting by a gent who wanted me to stop because there were churches for this sort of thing. When I knocked him back on that offer he decided my crowd were all paid and it was all a set up. Just to emphasise the point he then went about offering people $50 a pop to leave so that I would stop! Despite the amusing diversion many stayed and listened as I expounded the gospel.
As the day came to a close the gospel had been preached, and many people had the word of God in their hands. And it don't matter what the proud one's say, because God sits in the highest place!
Praise His name.
After long discussions with the council and deliberations by them we have been banned from witnessing in the Elizabeth Street Mall on threat of arrest if we persist. As I wrote previously we are looking for advice currently on options for challenging this ruling and what the implications for a court challenge are. Please be in prayer for us and all Christians in Hobart as the government here is becoming increasingly belligerent in its opposition to public expressions of Christianity.
This Friday I obtained a permit for witnessing in Franklin Square, a small park bracketed by the two major roads through town. It was a rainy day and quite cold so I was expecting to have little success with conversations but I hoped that I would be able to hand out some tracts to the people in the bus station. With many faithful Christians appealing to God I was also hoping that God would act to exceed what I thought would naturally tend to happen.
On arriving I decided rapidly that preaching would be out of the question for the day, the only audience I would have is the local seagulls and pigeons. As they have no need for a saviour I went to the bus station and handed out tracts and tried to speak to my fellow dying men and women of Hobart. For the following two hours I had a constant stream of people who took tracts and one or two short conversations with people in the bus station. A couple of Christians from my church stopped to say hello and encourage me in the work, this is always a great lift to my spirits.
At the end of the time I bumped into two friends who also identified themselves as Christians. We had an encouraging talk and I urged the young man in particular to consider carefully the particulars of our faith and make sure that he was walking faithfully with the Lord.
There were encouragements today but I am hopeful form more people to hear the gospel and for there to be an opportunity to speak to more people and possibly gather a crowd to preach the gospel to them. God willing we will be able to build this area into a Speakers Corner that people come to to hear the preaching much like in London.
It was a wet and windy Friday afternoon as Adam, Andrew, Paul and I gathered to share the eternal gospel with the lost of Hobart in the Elizabeth street mall. I was expecting that there would be opposition today from the Hobart City Council just as there had for the previous six months. I was not disappointed on that count and even the Hobart police force became involved in attempting to prevent us preaching the good news.
Previously we have been harassed by the council who informed us that we need a permit to preach and hand out tracts in the mall and we were breaking the by laws. I investigated this thoroughly and the only relevant law that could be construed this way was one forbidding political meetings in the mall. There are several laws relating to religious activity in car parks around the city, but as the mall does not count as a car park I disregarded these laws. In spite of this the council persists in pointing to their conditions of use document which explicitly forbids preaching, one to one witnessing and tracting in the mall, the conditions of use document then points back to the by laws as a basis for the restrictions. This circular reasoning is used regularly to restrict freedom of religion in Hobart.
We began the day with handing out tracts and talking with people in various places in the mall. I always rejoice to see tracts in the hands of people and often seeing them reading or showing them to friends.
I found a convenient place to preach from behind a wind break which thankfully also acted as a sounding board and allowed me to project my voice down the mall. I began to preach using the recent budget and other financial concerns globally. From this regular concern for most people I turned to what God’s word says on the matter, in particular the comments in Mt 6 on money and the other common modern preoccupation - worry. The Bible is plain on this count, greed is only another form of idolatry and worry is distrust of God at best and practical atheism at worst. We are commanded to worship God only and when we refuse to do this we become guilty. Judgement/Gospel/Appeal
Adam preached for first time – death and certainty of judgement and need of the gospel.
Council officers approached Adam when preaching – need a permit. Referred to me, tried discussion but not interested, they called the police. Left saying we were God-botherers
Police arrived after Adam finished and we were talking and handing out tracts. Told complaint had been made and we were breaking the bylaws. Also told were breaking the public disorder laws by preaching/making noise/offending people. Discussed laws and police became very antsy and upset with this and I was told to become a police officer if I wanted to know the law so much.
Clarification sought at the Police station, inspector informed us that the same things apply
Council by laws should be upheld
We were breaching public order laws – contradictory
We were not being discriminated against as it applied to all “not just you”
We are seeking legal information and political approaches to resolve this matter quickly