The Melbourne Team has now been meeting on Friday nights for around 4-5 months and though we have not kept up with our reports, there has been some great stuff happening. The team averages 6-8 people each week with a committed pool of around 10 workers. We meet to pray around 7pm and then head out to preach for 2 hours, usually as pairs doing "walk up" type witnessing. Here are some highlights from the past couple of weeks (apologies for the very long post):
As many of you know, On Friday 20th January, a deranged man drove his car into Burke St mall and struck and killed a number of innocent people. As a result, the mood the following week was very different. Usually Burke St Mall is dominated by the sounds of very talented musicians busking and groups of people having fun, but this week things were very subdued. There was an astonishing collection of flowers left outside the GPO building as an impromptu memorial. We set out to preach and at first we were a little gun shy because of the mood, however we found the events of the previous week caused many to think about mortality.
Simon spoke to John and Tracey (pictured). John had a Catholic background and so Simon spoke to him about the relationship between works and grace. The Mall is very multi-cultural and we meet people from all over the world. Andrew spoke to a couple of different French groups and to a couple of Nepalese guys whose girlfriends got bored and walked away! He also spoke to a group of pastors from New Zealand who tragically could not between them articulate the gospel.
The best conversations of the night happened near the Memorial. Andrew and Elise spoke to Luke and his friend Naomi who were reading cards left with the flowers. They were both very open about eternal matters and Luke was really keen to read the Bible for himself. Andrew gave him a Bible and pointed him to the Gospel of John as a starting place.
The best conversation of the night was with Raj, a Sihk guy who works security for a shopping complex on the Mall. The team has now spoken to him a few times and given him a Bible. He regularly asks great questions but at the same time he seems to be grasping for objections and trying to find reasons not to believe.
There were many great conversations this week. Canaan and Amanda were able to share with Milee, a young lady who had been put off Christianity by her family and with John a catholic and his Mormon wife, Anne. Simon and Troy talked with Louis a spiritualist, and Arkash who was from a Hindu background. Andrew chatted with James, a Navy guy with an Anglican background who was employed in some sort of confidential role!
This was Simon's last night with us before he flew out to serve with MAF as a missionary pilot in Arnhem Land. We were sad to lose him but encouraged that he will be preaching the gospel wherever he goes.
Canaan chatted with a young man name Finn who was raised Catholic. He was very agreeable so it was a little difficult to see if he really held certain beliefs or was merely being polite. He had a right view of God's justice in punishing sinners and the need for forgiveness, even to the point of saying that he would be deserving of Gods wrath if he died. Unfortunately, he just seemed a little apathetic about it all.
There were huge numbers of tracts handed out that night (compared to normal for our small team) but comparatively few conversations.
The night started with a group of Mormon missionaries and a group of people giving out free hugs. The free hugs were nice enough, but the givers could not come up with a consistent motive for why they felt this was important. Andrew was able to share with one of them about the Gospel.
The Mormons were interesting. Canaan and Amanda spoke to 3 and Andrew and Elise spoke to 3. Andrew was able to speak to them about the integrity of the holy books as a reason to trust the Bible but reject the book of Mormon. He then transitioned to the differences in our respective understanding of atonement and about how Jesus had completed the payment for our sins, not just contributed to it. The young Mormon missionaries were intrigued by Ephesians 2:8-9 but then the leader of the group (from Canaan's conversation) burst in and declared that they all needed to head back now and that this conversation was pointless. Andrew declared that it was anything but pointless because one of us was clearly wrong and our souls were at stake. This angered the leader who left while the young Mormons lingered to read Ephesians 2:8-9 from their own preferred translation.
Andrew, Nick and Elise met Sergio (middle of photo) from Brazil who knew the right answers but seemed to lack a lot of fruit. Andrew challenged him about what true repentance looks like.
Canaan and Amanda finished the night chatting with this young couple who were quite friendly and reasonable. The guy was taking things in and seemed to be thinking through the Gospel rightly. The lady had a lot more objections, but it was nice for her to question back and forth and give her answers on things.
There are many wonderful things happening on the Melbourne team and we promise to write updates more often! Please continue to pray for us!
Soli Deo Gloria!
God gave us a steady flow of people to converse with including:
The tracts seemed to go out more quickly than at other times but it was not from the Pokemon players whose eyes were fixed to their screens as they trudged by. By God's grace, maybe one day they will be doing the Heb.12:2 gaze in adoration.
On the way to the bus stop where we evangelise, Ryan had a conversation with a J.W. bus driver. I saw this and began praying for him while he tried to get a gospel conversation going, and it prepared me for what lay ahead. However the J.W. was more concerned that it was the last days (which means they believe they have to put in more hours than usual), than wanting to discuss about matters of eternity.
We were then able to pray for God's work and went forth to the few people there - as many as our sovereign Lord had arranged to receive tracts and/or engage in 1:1s, e.g.
Jamie, a young Christian lady who could not defend the faith. If someone were to ask her ,"Why should God let you into His heaven?", she could not explain her faith. Going through the law and gospel, she responded most joyously. She received a sample of tracts, and was referred to our website, Jamie said that she would teach her friends how to defend the faith. Pray they respond in like enthusiastic manner.
Lorraine, an expert in creating a 'god' she could handle including Jesus as Mediator, karma and every other belief that she liked from various religions! Pray she reads the tract and God deals savingly with her.
Dana, a teenager who seemed to grasp the message and Ryan challenged her to count the cost. Jesus has told us what a lukewarm 'Christian' can expect - Rev. 3:16.
As always, what God did but did not reveal to us, is to the praise of His glorious grace. We are thankful that He enables us to serve Him in this manner and we are quick to give Him all the glory and praise.
We were lower in team number's yesterday for our outreach in Brisbane city, but we knew God was with us. And He also saw fit to bring along a new labourer who hasn't done much evangelism before, praise the Lord.
Across the afternoon several hundred gospel tracts went out to people and dozens of evangelistic conversations had.
One such conversation was with Doug. He said he was an atheist, but after hearing that since the universe had a beginning therefore logically it must have had a creator, he backed down on his atheism and said that he was happy to believe in a creator that is outside of space and time, but as long as it's not God.
He said, "You will never guess why I don't want to believe in God." I replied, "It's because you don't want him to tell you how to live, right?" He looked shocked and said, "How did you guess that? I just don't want a God to tell me what I can and can't do." What he said reminded me of Romans 1:18-20 how by nature we suppress the truth that we know about God in unrighteousness.
We chatted further, and I asked him, "What good is enjoying the momentary pleasures of sin if you end up in a place of pain and suffering forever later on? It's like having a cup of pleasure in exchange for an ocean of pain. Definitely not worth it." At the end, he thanked me for the conversation and said he would think about it.
No matter the response, it is always a success when God's word goes out. To God be the glory!
For times and locations of our evangelism teams, see: www.operation513.com/street-evangelism-teams
At the end of our outreach at Woodridge yesterday we were rejoicing that God's word never returns void, but accomplishes everything He wants it to. We had a team of five of us and God brought along dozens of people across our path throughout the afternoon who were open to talking about spiritual things.
It is interesting to see three examples yesterday of people coming from different stages of belief - Firstly, Troy, he was a man who said that he knew God existed but said that he loves sinning. After he heard the gospel yesterday, he said he would count the cost of coming to faith in Jesus.
We also talked to a young man named George who thought he was already saved, but turns out he was trusting in being a good person to get him to heaven. By the end he realised that he needed to trust in Christ alone for his salvation.
And later on, we talked with a man named Elijah who hadn't really given much thought to the things of God, but was quite open. He said he would really think about what he heard.
We sow the seed, but God gives the growth. We are nothing, but God is worthy of all praise. So to God be the glory!
The Lord be praised for enabling us to witness for His glory this warmish day. He provided a rich variety of people, including these people who claimed to be Christians:
- Shaun from PNG background recently moved here and not attending a local church. He had difficulty explaining his faith but as we went through the law and gospel, he had a sound knowledge of sin and the need for him to repent and trust Christ alone. After going through the law and gospel, he seemed to grasp how justice was satisfied by Jesus and a sinner now trusting in the Son could ask for mercy and receive forgiveness of all his sins from a righteous and merciful Father. We prayed as his bus arrived to take him home rejoicing. He also was recommended a local church.
- Tanya from a local church. Now seems to understand the doctrine of justification by faith and taking her need to trust Christ alone as a matter for serious thought today.
- James was struggling to express his reason that God would let him into heaven. He seemed to agree with the gospel but further questioning showed his confused ideas of sin and his own worthiness. This was repeated a few times before his bus arrived.
Pray that churches would shepherd their sheep with life-giving fodder and nurture. Pray also that Christians would be more concerned to do all things to the glory of God, 1 Cor. 10:21; including outreach activities. Lord! Grant us grace to be better servants giving you all thanks and praise.
After praying together as a team, we set up our free Bibles table in English and Arabic, and then started getting into conversations with people and handing out gospel tracts.
There was a man named Alan who I noticed was listening to the preacher for the entire duration of the time he was speaking. Then later on, he sat down on a bench which happened to be right next to where a team member was sitting and so they got chatting.
Alan expressed how he is from the UK on a working visa but is leaving Australia in only a matter of days. He said that a few months ago in Perth a person shared the gospel with him. He has been thinking about what he heard, but hasn't done anything about it.
So last night, the team member was able to further explain the gospel to him and answer his questions. Alan said that he can't keep putting it off; he realised that he needs to actually heed the message. The conversation continued for over an hour and a half.
In fact, later in the night he returned and said that after the conversation he had just had, he called up the person who had witnessed to him in Perth and said that he wants to trust in Christ.
To God be the glory!
We had a great outreach yesterday in King George Square (Brisbane). It always amazes me that quite often the typical Aussie hasn't really considered much about what comes after or about God, they've just heard the odd negative thing here or there about God and they've been taught evolution in school and therefore assume that God doesn't exist.
That was evident in a conversation we had yesterday with a man in his mid-thirties named Michael. After being asked whether he thought he would go to Heaven, he replied, "I don't believe in things that don't exist."
I pointed him to the building in front of him and said, "You know that had a builder, don't you?" He agreed. I continued, "Even though you've never set eyes on the builder or shaken his hand, you still know that there must have been a builder. So in the same way, you look at the universe and you know that it had a beginning and therefore it must have had a creator for it. You've never seen Him or shaken His hand, but you still know that He exists."
He then asked, "But what about evolution?" I replied, "That is irrelevant, for evolution still requires that matter exists, where did that matter come from?" He said, "That's a good point, I haven't thought of that." He agreed it made sense that there must be a God and so then I explained how therefore it matters what we do on this earth in that God will judge us one day based on how we've lived.
After talking about how we have all sinned against God and therefore deserve Hell, he asked if there is anything that he can do to fix it. So he then listened intently as the news of Jesus death and resurrection were explained to him and how forgiveness is a free gift through repentance and faith in Jesus.
I encouraged him to count the cost of following Jesus, and he said, "I am going to have to think about this today. Who knows, today might be the beginning of a new chapter in my life."
What a wonderful day God blessed us with here in Hobart today! Blessed with beautiful warmth and a gentle cool breeze, peace, good food and drink and the wonder of being called (though unworthy) to share the gospel with others. As is always the case at this time of year, there were many people in the mall and quite a few of them stopped to listen and some to talk. The only troubling cloud in view is the scowl that passes over certain people's faces as they read the pro-marriage flyer on the front of the bible table. The latest face to do that was homosexual activist Rodney Croome just before he took pictures and video of the preaching and bible table.
After I set up I was able to briefly chat with Tim, who has been coming to support my work for many months now. He and four other Christians all commented on the fact that I had been drawn by two atheists (Sam and Mitch) into a extended debate the previous week. They were quite concerned that I had not preached and a couple of them (rightly) rebuked me for neglecting my duty to bring the gospel to mall and to them. There is a lesson in this I am glad to hear; never, Never, NEVER neglect the gospel for any other topic or discussion. God willing it will not happen again, please pray for me in this.
For the first time in the afternoon I preached on the joy and heart-break of pregnancy and children. I firstly pointed to the great tragedy of miscarriage and grief and pain that so many couples face at the loss of a child in the womb. From here I pointed to the horrible evil of abortion, which denies the value of every human life, no matter how small. By normalising the "right to chose" an abortion society has refused the right of men and women to grieve at the loss of a child in miscarriage. After all at the early stages the child is "only a fetus", "only an embryo", or most horrid of all "its just tissue...". God says on the other hand that we should grieve whenever someone dies because death is an enemy and not a normal thing; it has come through sin and will one day be done away with. From this I called people to consider how much God loves each and every one of us, He makes us, provides for us, and gives us a mind and conscience. And more than that, He saw how evil and helpless in sin and death we were, are, and continue to be and He had compassion on us! He came and did something about it, He took our broken-ness and sinfulness on the cross and took our place. Then He conquered death and hell in one fell swoop, triumphing over them on the cross and rising from the grave! Praise our awesome God!
After preaching I got to have a good chat with Tim (another Christian friend) who has been helping with the fantastic work of Pierce and Christina Beahr. This lovely Christian couple run Pilgrim Hill, a ministry aiming to reach out to backpackers through hospitality and art. Each week they host 40-80 people for a free dinner and a short gospel talk and then an opportunity to talk with Christians about matters of life and faith. Among the many other calls for prayer out there I would add this one, please pray for the Beahrs as they do this difficult and demanding work week in week out.
I also discussed with Mr S. my regular heckler regarding homosexual marriage. I had challenged him the week before to show me the ways that he would argue against paedophilia being legalised when they use almost the same arguments as the same sex marriage lobby (arguments he accepts). Thus far he has spoken only of the disparity in power between individuals as the basis of his argument, I will wait and see what else he thinks of in coming weeks. For those who may be unaware, since homosexual marriage was brought into law polygamy, paedophilia, incest, and even beastiality are being put forward as perfectly normal alternative forms of "marriage" in the USA, Europe, and Canada. The arguments put forward by these groups are the same as homosexual marriage advocates used, they merely challenge a further article of marriage (age, number, blood relation or species). This should be a clear warning to us in Australia that acquiescing to homosexual marriage will open wide the door to all manner of relational evils. As is the case of any compromise made with sin, national or personal.
I preached a further two times (quite croaky at the end) and spoke of the evidence of creation that is all around us and the deceitfulness of riches. I urged the people to humble themselves and have faith in Jesus and follow Him and no-one and nothing else.
Afterwards the conversation with Mr M. and Mr S. continued for a time but I sidestepped the debate to talk to a young guy Mr W. We had a wonderful conversation beginning with the documentary support for the bible and working out from there to topics like suffering and God, absolute morality and the gospel. It was fantastic to talk with him and hopefully he will come again in the future.
Praise God for all His goodness and faithfulness!
We arrived, two men and two ladies on the team today, to speak to those God directed across our paths. We spoke with:
- A young Chinese family who claimed to be Christian but could not answer "Why should God let you into His heaven?" They quickly grasped that it was because of what the perfect Lord Jesus Christ had done on their behalf and rejoiced at the simple beauty of God's provision of Jer. 23:6/Rom.3:22.
- A young man named Ryan 'born an atheist' but now saying he will read the Bible because if it is true, he wants to follow.
- A middle-aged man, Gary, who had a long one to one and seems to be searching
There were some other conversations too and it was generally a day where those who refused tracts did so politely.
As we prepared to go home, Ryan had to challenge two Jehovah Witnesses who were sitting in their deck chairs clocking up a few hours as part of their fallacious work righteousness system. The junior member made a note of verses like Mt. 5:48 which he said he had never read before. May John 8:31,32 be his testimony in the Great Day.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.