Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend Evangelism

Thanksgiving Dinner

For more than 20 years (give or take a year or two) I have enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with my wife's family. Since I started dating Mahria some 25 years ago, her family has been every bit as much my family, as my own family. Mahria's parents, like my mom, are my parents. Her uncles and aunts are my uncles and aunts. Her cousins are my cousins--and so on. I have been truly blessed with good and loving relationships with Mahria's family.

Neither Mahria nor I have ever taken advantage of a family gathering to share the gospel with even one of the family members, on her side of the family. Yes, it is true that witnessing to family members is by far the most difficult group of people with whom to share the Law and the Gospel, for all of the obvious reasons. However, I think, in the end, we can all agree that such reasoning is nothing more than excuse-making. Well, at least for me, I know that's the case.

So, before we made the hour-drive to Mahria's cousin's house, I told her that I was going to share the gospel with someone today and the first person who came to mind was Uncle Larry. Uncle Larry, according to the world's standards, is a "good" man. He loves his wife and children. He works hard. He is kind. He's just a "good" uncle. :-)

We arrived at Mahria's cousin's house earlier than expected. Uncle Larry arrived about a half hour later. He was there for only a few minutes when, with a serious look on his face (unusual for the family jokester), he motioned to me and said, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

I followed Uncle Larry into the hallway. "You usually pray the blessing over the meal. Could you remember Julie this year?"

Julie, one of Uncle Larry's daughters, was killed in a tragic, alcohol-related accident 20 years ago.

"Sure, Uncle Larry. I would be happy to. Thanks for asking me to do that."

That was the most significant, spiritual conversation I have ever had with the man, in the 25 years I have known him. And he initiated it! But it gets better.

As we sat on the couch watching the football game and making small talk, Uncle Larry said, "Imagine what the world would be like if people obeyed the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments really are the only true moral standard."

"What?!" I thought to myself. "Did Uncle Larry just bring up the Ten Commandments out of the blue? Did I really just hear what I thought I heard? Well, Lord, if you were ever to put a flashing neon light in front of me to get my attention, I guess you just did." :-)

Uncle Larry's comment started about a 20-minute conversation about the Law and the Gospel. Mahria's dad and another one of her uncles were also in the room, watching the football game. All three of the patriarchs in the family heard the Law and the Gospel yesterday! All praise and glory to our great God and King.

Although Uncle Larry was not completely humbled by the Law, and while I didn't convince him of the reality of heaven and hell (he didn't deny the reality, he just remained unsure), he did hear the Law and the Gospel, and spiritual seeds were planted. And it only took 20 years to do it! :-)

There were no angry tones. No destruction of important, family relationships. No one stormed out of the room. No mashed potatoes were hurled across the table. There were no shouts of "incoming!" as biscuit mortars were lobbed across the room. And, at the end of the day, as we said our goodbyes, I received probably the biggest hug from Uncle Larry I have ever received. (And he's not shy about hugs.)

While it was utterly sinful of me not to share the gospel with the family all these years, God's grace continues to amaze me. His goodness and longsuffering continue to amaze me. His sovereignty in every conversation continues to amaze me. And, again by His grace, He made His sovereignty visible through how He used what was on Uncle Larry's mind and heart to set up the conversation. It was like a change-up over the heart of the evangelism plate.

"Black Friday" Morning

My sister, Cheryl, and I got started at 4:00AM. Our intention was to start at Best Buy. But on the way, we so a very long line outside of Kohls. The store was opening at 4, so we quickly parked, and tracted the line. Of course the line was even longer at Best Buy. Folks at the front of the line had been there since Wednesday afternoon. Again, we tracted the entire line.

Our next stop was Circuit City and another line of a few hundred people. Our last stop was Wal-Mart. We stationed ourselves outside the exit and distributed a couple hundred more tracts. The manager tried to get us to leave, saying that we were not allowed to solicit or impede the flow of customer traffic. I assured him that we were not selling anything or signing people up for anything, and that we weren't in anyone's way. AND WE KEPT ON TRACTIN'! :-)

In two hour's time, we distributed almost 2,000 gospel tracts! It was a good "warm-up" for what would prove to be a very fruitful afternoon of OA, tracting, and 1-to-1 in Burbank.

Burbank Town Center

Leon Brown of EvangelismTeam.com and I arrived at the Burbank Town Center at 2:00 PM. We met my friend and church family member, Mike, at In-n-Out Burger (of course) to grab something to eat, before heading to the fishing pond. We would be joined by Dru Morgan and about ten other fishermen later in the evening.

Things started slow, with relatively small crowds. There would be an ebb and flow of pedestrian traffic throughout the seven hours we fished. But by the end of the evening, we had more one-to-one and small group conversations than I can remember. Leon and I both open-air preached. Hundreds of tracts were distributed and hundreds of people heard the Law and the Gospel.

Here are links for my three open-air sessions and a conversation with a group of six "church" kids, along with a brief description of each audio. Of course, you are going to hear very similar messages but then again, there is but ONE true Gospel. :-)

Amber and the Blasphemous Philosopher: Amber was offended by the Law, but readily accepted the grace of the gospel. During this OA, a man in his 50's marched up to just a few inches from my stool, took a knee, and made the sign of the cross. Leon has video of this OA. Hopefully, time permitting, Leon will post the video on GodTube.

Diane the Nice Lady: Diane readily admitted that she was unable to keep the commandments, but she held onto her belief that she is a good person (although not with much conviction). She believed she would go to heaven based on her desire to be forgiven. She asserted that God does not judge. Oh, I wish you could have seen her eyes light up when I told her that "all liars will have their part in the lake of fire."

Christopher: Christopher seemed humbled by the Law. Interestingly, those who heard this OA seemed to hang around when I was done preaching. Every person who stayed received a copy of "How To Live Forever Without Being Religious." We probably gave away 50+ copies of the book throughout the evening.

6 Church Kids: This was an important conversation for a young lady named Jenny. All six kids professed to be Christians but by the end of the conversation Jenny (almost in tears) wasn't sure. Oh, a couple of times you will hear the theme to "Hawaii Five-O" (for those of you who are old enough to remember the TV show). That's my cell phone ring tone. Sorry. Once a cop, always a cop. :-)

Way of the Master Television -- Season Three

This morning, Leon and I had the opportunity to serve on the set of Way of the Master Television. Today, Kirk Cameron was filming a few scenes from an episode titled, "America, America." Leon and I ran a couple of errands for the producer and assisted in serving the crew lunch.

We went to In-n-Out Burger (of course) to pick up lunch for the crew. While we waited for the food, we sat down on a bench next to a man who was likely in his late 60's, early 70's. We made some small talk with him about the work he does and then I handed him some Christmas Cash. He got a kick out of it.

"You know, after you read it, maybe you can give it to your boss." I said.

"Yeah. 'Hey boss here's your #$%&@ Christmas card!" He said, sarcastically.

"So, what do you two do for a living?" He asked.

Leon and I looked at each other and smiled.

"We're in the ministry." I said.

The man's eyes got as big as saucers. "Well! Here I am a Southern Baptist cussing in front of ministers!"

"Yeah. Imagine that." I said.

It wasn't the prettiest ice-breaker, but it served its purpose. Leon began to probe for the man's spiritual beliefs. We learned that he went to a baptist college, in Virginia but left school after a run-in with a professor. After serving in Vietnam, he and his family started attending a Lutheran Church -- a church pastored by a man who said he wasn't sure about the existence of heaven and hell so he had some fire insurance "just in case."

Leon took the man through the Law and the Gospel. I'll let Leon fill in the details. But it was an unexpected adventure...and a good one.

It's been a jammed-packed, but very fruitful 24 hours. Leon, Cheryl, Mike, Mahria, Amanda, Dru, and everyone else who joined in the effort--thanks for partnering with me this weekend. It was a blessing to have enjoy fellowship with you and to bring the Law and the Gospel to so many people.

To God be all the praise, honor, and glory. In Jesus' name!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog. It motivates me to evangelize every day. I shared the True Gospel of Jesus Christ 8 months ago with my MOM and she repented and believed on Christ. My Mom passed away yesterday, Family gathered all around her to comfort her as she was peacefuly escorted to heaven. Mom you can rest now. Praise to the Way of the Master Program and Radio for teaching me the truth about evangelizing and giving me an opportunity to share with her. God bless you all.

Tony Miano said...

While I extend my condolences to you an your family because of your mother's passing, I praise God with you that she is now in the presence of our glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How very humbling it is to me that you would take the time to share your words of encouragement with me so soon after your mother's home-going.

Like you, I thank our great God and King for The Way of the Master. The Lord has similarly used the ministry and the people therein to teach me how to biblically share my faith and to foster in me a love for the lost and a passion for reaching them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Again, thank you for taking a moment away from ministering to your family to share your words of encouragement with me. You and your family are in my prayers.