Saturday, July 14, 2012

Is Open-Air Preaching Effective? Ask Mohammed and Cathy

I was joined this morning at the North Hollywood Metro Station by Steven Masters, Bill McCarty, John Brady, David Carosa, Peter Garon, and Pastor Geoff Kirkland of Christ Fellowship Bible Church (St. Louis, MO). I'm very blessed to have a small group of faithful men who are willing to give of their time to join me in harvest work.

Today marked Week 2 of my participation in Challenge 66--an effort to encourage open-air preachers to craft at least one open-air sermon from all 66 books of the Bible. My first open-air of the day was drawn from Exodus 3:1-14. I've titled the message "The Great I Am is Jesus Christ."

Shortly after I began to preach, I heard a commotion near the entrance to the metro station, more than 50 yards away. I looked in that direction and saw a security guard and a vendor take a man to the ground. I would later learn that the security guard contacted the man after he received complaints the man was bothering people outside the station. When the security guard approached him, the man pushed the security guard. It was his first mistake.

David called 9-1-1, and within minutes sheriffs deputies, firefighters, paramedics, and more security guards converged on the area. At the height of the chaos there were at least 30-40 first responders at the metro station. And they all arrived directly behind me. The aftermath is the scene in the above photo.

The man was handcuffed, treated by paramedics for injuries he sustained during the altercation, and transported to the hospital via ambulance.

I thank God for the incident. A crowd gathered to watch the happenings. The first responders milled around for quite some time, collecting and exchanging information. All of which gave me the opportunity to preach the law and the gospel to more people--including my brothers and sisters behind the badge, many of whom received gospel tracts from other members of the team.

Here's the first open-air.

Next to preach was Bill McCarty. As Bill preached, I joined the rest of my brothers distributing gospel tracts, snapping a few photos along the way. The below photo captured one of the most blessed moments of the day.

This is David Carosa talking to Mohammed. When David handed Mohammed a gospel tract, Mohammed said he did not know how to read. So, David took the time to read the gospel tract to Mohammed. As I watched David and Mohammed, I thought of the church in the first century--how excited they were to receive a letter from Paul or one of the other apostles. Most people in the first century were not blessed with the ability to read. So, they often heard the gospel and the doctrines of the Word of God while listening to others read the letters of the apostles.

Once David read the gospel tract, he prayed for Mohammed.

Yet many Christians foolishly assert gospel tracts are ineffective, irrelevant, passe. Such people would have an impossible time convincing my friend, David, of that. And they would probably have an equally-hard time convincing Mohammed.

Toward the end of our time today at the metro station, Bill McCarty and I found ourselves in a conversation with a young lady who insisted baptism is required for salvation. She denied being a member of the International Church of Christ, but her tactics and rhetoric had all the markings of one of the cult's "disciple-makers."

The conversation with the young lady motivated me to preach my second open-air, choosing as my text Galatians 1:6-10. I titled the message "Beware of 'Other' Gospels."

It was getting close to noon and the temperature was approaching 100 degrees. There were people sitting around waiting for their buses to arrive. I noticed one lady sitting about 100 feet away, to my right. I watched as she repeatedly wiped tears from her eyes.

Her name was Cathy.

Open-air preachers--those of us who have been at it for awhile--pray to see even one person moved, not by our preaching, but by the message we preach. And our prayer is not that people would be emotionally moved, but rather moved by the Holy Spirit as they are drawn to God the Father, and given the precious gifts of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. My prayer as I preached was that Cathy's visible emotion was the byproduct of godly grief producing repentance leading to salvation, and not merely a worldly grief leading only to death (2 Corinthians 7:10).

At times, I felt as though I was only preaching for Cathy's benefit.

My open-air was interrupted by three people. One woman frantically asked for prayer, for the group. Another person in the group was a blind man. The third person turned out to be the adult daughter of the frantic woman.

I stopped preaching to pray for the three people. You can hear my interaction with them, in the below audio.

Once I had prayed for the people, I gathered the team together to close our time at the metro station, with prayer. I am not ashamed to say I was overcome with emotion as I thanked God for what He allowed us to do, and for allowing us to see Him work--all for His glory.

We headed to our cars. The plan was to enjoy some fellowship at our favorite hamburger joint--In-n-Out Burgers.

As Steven and I walked to the car, Cathy, the lady who wept during the open-air, stood up and said, "Is that it? Did someone tell you you had to leave?." She seemed genuinely upset that there would be no more preaching.

"Oh, no. No one told us to leave. We've been here since nine o'clock this morning. And, well, we're just done for the day. That's all." I said.

I asked Cathy if she had a Bible. She said she did not. So, I gave her one. It was then that I asked her name, telling her I wanted to know for whom I would be praying.

Cathy said, "Please do. You see, I have stage four cancer."

I asked Cathy if Steven and I could pray for her, right then and there. She allowed us to pray for her.

Many Christians foolishly assert open-air preaching is ineffective, irrelevant, passe. Such people would have an impossible time convincing me of that. And they would probably have an equally-hard time convincing Cathy.

Are gospel tracts and open-air preaching effective? Ask Mohammed and Cathy.

Here's the second open-air.