Tuesday, September 11, 2012
My Sheep Hear Me & Follow My Methods
Many amazing things happened on my last trip to the Philippines. It always seems that is the case with almost any mission trip. There are always so many unique encounters that occur and stories to tell when we return. However, I witnessed something in my last trip that was so very encouraging and was one of the factors that led me to conclude the need to relocate.
While I was there I had numerous people asking me many doctrinal questions (some of them elementary and others very difficult). I also had requests from some of them men to mentor them in certain areas (prayer, evangelism, preaching, etc.). This weighed heavily on my mind at that time and after my return. How can I mentor them if I a not there? And also will they accept instruction from a ‘kano (American)? Do they have a teachable spirit?
I have been involved in church ministry in one form or another for almost twelve years now. The majority of my ministry has been in teaching (even more so than preaching). I have taught Sunday school, Discipleship training, etc. As I pastor, I believe there is an element of teaching in my preaching ministry. So often in the churches where I have preached or served, I have presented clear instruction time and time again only to have it ignored. If you have been a pastor then you probably know what I am talking about.
Perhaps one of the most difficult areas for church members in America is intentional evangelism. I am amazed that most members of most churches in America never share their faith. They would never take a Saturday to go to a park just to hand out tracts and evangelize. Granted, there are some in churches who do this but it is the minority and often it is not as a ministry of the church being led by an elder but it is on their own. And heaven forbid that they be asked to actually verbally proclaim the Gospel in a public place. I dare say most pastors do not do this- in fact, would not do this.
Imagine my surprise when I offered to have evangelistic outreach with the leaders of Christ Bible Church and five said they were available and would like to go. Our small team was composed of one of the pastors, two youth, a visiting intern, the organist and me. I found out that they had experience with sharing the Gospel one to one and were comfortable doing this. I had printed 560 tracts to distribute. I watched as they each would sit either with one person or a small group of people and go through the Gospel tract with them. Sometimes they would take up to 40 minutes with just one person to thoroughly share the Gospel. This was very encouraging. I asked them (since I was a guest) if I could preach. The pastor said he would collect a small group of people to listen to me.
The next Saturday three of us went to Gaston Park. This park is adjacent to the Roman Catholic Church (“St. Augustine’s Cathedral”). I knew the crowd could be potentially more resistant here and some of them were. Also, many of the vendors make their living from the people who attend and visit the Church. In addition to food vendors, there were people selling flowers, incense and candles to be used in the church worship. Some were selling statues of “saints.” After a few hours of evangelism I told the pastor I would preach again but there was no need to gather an audience. He asked where I would preach. I explained I would preach in the center of the street between the park & the vendors and facing the parking area of the cathedral. I was not sure if the evangelism team would be comfortable (frankly, I am never comfortable in street preaching, especially in potential hostile and confrontational environments like this).
I mounted the post at the bottom of the street light and began to address the vendors and passers-by on the Biblical view of idolatry. Many people were very curious to see the white-faced ‘kano preaching loudly from the center of the street.
After my preaching, the pastor and youth had many questions about the “how” of street preaching. They both said “I cannot do that.” One asked me if this was a special spiritual gift or if it is something that can be learned. I explained that I did not believe it was a special gift given to few but historically has been the Biblical form of evangelism. I was asked if I would be willing to teach on the topic some time. I explain that of course I would be glad to teach but that really there is very little to teach. It is simple. Have something to say and say it. I explained “It is like parachuting. There is great fear waiting to jump but once you leave the plane you are out there and there is no going back.”
After I returned home I thought nothing else about our conversation. The following weekend after I was back in the US, I received a message from my contact in Cagayan. They relayed to me that Pastor Ben and the youth Woody has committed to engage in evangelism every Saturday and that they both had preached open-air that day. My heart was filled with joy to see these believers and a pastor “catch” the Biblical mode of evangelism and even to engage in open-air preaching. What a joy to have believers who not only desire Biblical truth but to follow the Biblical, practical applications of those truths. I guess real sheep, with teachable spirits do not need to be cajoled, threatened or begged to obey. They just need to hear truth and see it modeled and they will follow.