Sunday, October 30, 2011

Clarence's Collision with False Conversion

It's been almost a week since more than 1,300 Christians throughout the United States and Canada banned together on a single day to distribute 180,000 copies of the documentary 180, on more than 100 college and university campuses. We continue to receive email responses from students who received the documentary--many good, some bad, and a few ugly. Many have changed their mind about abortion and some have come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as a result of the effort.

In addition to shepherding this massive project, I also had the privilege of leading the team that distributed 2,000 DVDs on the campus of UCLA. The team, comprised primarily of Living Waters staff members and members of their families, also included students from UCLA and friends of the ministry. There were approximately thirty people on the team.

We spent four hours on the UCLA campus distributing DVDs, engaging students in spiritual conversation, and proclaiming the law and the gospel in the open-air. It was an amazing time of fellowship and evangelism that I am certain bore much fruit for the kingdom of God.

Here is a photo/video montage produced by Stuart and Carol Scott that provides a snapshot of the effort at UCLA.

As I mentioned, our time on the campus included open-air preaching. Ray Comfort, Stuart Scott, and Mark Spence together preached for a couple of hours, non-stop. The crowd grew to an estimated 500 students, which drew the attention of the school's radio program.

It is likely that more unbelievers heard the gospel during that two-hour period than the total number of unbelievers that will enter any given church in a year of Sundays. Some students dropped by to listen for a few minutes. Others students, presumably missing classes, stayed for the full two hours to listen to the preaching and to engage the preacher. The "hecklers" were literally lining up to take a crack at whoever was "on the box."

One of the first hecklers was Clarence, a fifth-year Political Science major and a pastor's kid (PK). Sadly, some of the most adamant hecklers open-air preachers face on the street, some of the most ardent detractors of the open-air proclamation of the gospel, are people whose first words out of their mouth are "I'm a Christian, too!"

Clarence's mantra was typical. He was opposed to the use of the law (the Ten Commandments), finding it offensive and judgmental to talk about sin. He believed it was unloving and inconsiderate to "shove Christianity down people's throats." Clarence was/is the apparent byproduct of weak preaching that likely focused on only the love of God, with little or no mention of righteousness, sin, judgment, Hell, and repentance.

Ray, as is his custom, allowed Clarence to vent for a few minutes before asking him to give up the heckler's box to someone else with an objection or question. Clarence eventually stepped down but, like so many other students, just couldn't leave.

Toward the end of the day, I saw Clarence still standing in the crowd, looking like he wanted to take a crack at Mark who was preaching at the time. I was sitting on a bench behind Mark and slightly removed from the throng of people who were gathered to hear the preaching.

I called Clarence by name and asked him to come over to where I was sitting. He obliged. I introduced myself, we shook hands, and then I asked Clarence a question.

"Clarence, share the gospel with me. Let's say you're a Christian and I'm your unbelieving friend. Here we are, together on campus. Now's your opportunity. Share the gospel with me."

Clarence told me that he would need his Bible to point out some verses. He said he would ask me if I wanted to know the Lord. And then he paraphrased Romans 10:9-10: "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

I explained to Clarence that I didn't want to hear how he would share the gospel with me, but that I wanted him to actually share the gospel with me. He couldn't do it. It's not that Clarence didn't want to share the gospel with me. He quite literally didn't know what to say.

I allowed Clarence to stumble over his words for a few minutes and then I said, "Okay. Let's switch. Now I'm the Christian and you're my unbelieving friend. This is what I would say to you.

"Clarence. The Bible says it's appointed once for a person to die and after that, the judgment. One day you are going to die, stand before God, and give an account for your life."

At this point, Clarence was nodding his head in agreement.

"Because God is good, because He is holy, righteous, and just He is going to judge you according to the perfect moral standard of His Law. If you've ever told so much as one lie, He will see you as a liar..."

"No! I don't believe that!" Clarence loudly interrupted.

I asked Clarence to allow me to finish. I was now, sadly, more confident than ever that I was talking to a false convert. Clarence who, if he was a born again follower of Jesus Christ, would have affirmed the truth of God's Word. But, instead, he was adamantly opposed to it.

In the next couple of minutes, I presented the law and the gospel to Clarence and then I asked him what he was studying.

"Political Science." Clarence answered.

"Okay. Let's say I walked up to you and said, 'Clarence, I know all there is to know about political science.' Curious, you say, 'Okay, tell me what you know about political science.' And I respond by saying, 'Well, we have elections every four years. And sometimes we have elections every two years. And we vote.'"

I stood silent for a moment, waiting for the expected response. Clarence cracked a smile, which indicated what I had just said was ridiculous to him.

"Clarence, if I said that to you would you believe I know anything about political science?" I asked.


"Clarence. I have two daughters older than you. I care about you. But if you wouldn't believe I know anything about political science, based on what I said to you, why should I believe you are a Christian when you can't tell me how to become one? Clarence you can't be saved by a gospel you do not know."

Clarence exploded. What came out of Clarence's mouth during the next couple of minutes further revealed the condition of his heart.

"Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matthew 15:17-19)

Now yelling at the top of his lungs, Clarence, with threats of violence, called me just about every name in the book--all the while insisting he was a Christian.

I thought for sure Clarence was going to hit me. Later, when I talked to other team members about the incident, they thought the same thing. I tried to calmly call Clarence on his hypocrisy, telling him that he was not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit. I called him to repent and believe the gospel, but to no avail.

Clarence walked away from me and hopped up on the wall next to Mark, who was preaching. He interrupted Mark and engaged the crowd.

He told the crowd he agreed with much of what was being said. It was as if Clarence was trying to do damage control after his public explosion. With some coaching from me and other members in the crowd, Clarence was able to bring himself to say that people who don't put their faith in Jesus Christ will go to Hell. But no sooner did the words come out of his mouth that he tried to soften what he said by assuring the crowd that no one knows for sure where anyone is going to spend eternity.

Eventually Clarence stepped down and rejoined the crowd. He was soon surrounded by well-wishers and approached by a reporter for the Bruin radio station. Alan Pearson, Living Waters' Director of Donor Relations, sat behind Clarence and listened intently to the interview. According to Alan, nothing Clarence said regarding the Christian faith was remotely close to the gospel and what the Bible teaches.

I was heartbroken. My heart is still grieved for Clarence and for the large number of students like him on college campuses across the country--students who left the fun-filled confines of party and pranks-driven youth ministries for secular college campuses where truth is relative and Christ is maligned. Like so many others, Clarence stepped onto the campus of UCLA believing he was saved, believing he was right with God, having never truly repented and received Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior.

While heartbroken about how it ended, my encounter with Clarence motivates me all-the-more to reach his generation with the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ.

Clarence's collision with false conversion should serve as a wake-up call for Christians and churches everywhere--a wake-up call to treat college and university campuses for what they are--mission fields filled with not only young people who have never believed in Christ, but also young people brought up in weak churches, under weak preaching, who were falsely led to believe they know Jesus when they don't.