Can We Evangelise?
by Rev Peter Ratcliff
Street preaching gets a lot of "wow, you are brave" cred points but it isn't everybody's "thing" and neither should it be.
Not for everyone
Compare the following:
Street preaching in Wimbledon last week was interesting. Many interruptions this week, which is always welcome. It saves the voice too!
Trying to convince a lovely old County Mayo man in a wheelchair that the Roman Catholic religion of adding his works for salvation and therefore having no assurance, really is not the Gospel. Then a relatively young Christian joins as the Roman Catholic leaves and I realise that so many charismatics and others are just not aware of church history and why we have learned lessons through history to discern truth and error.
But you don't need to do street preaching to evangelise. I got chatting to a couple this morning, complaining about the rising prices at a café. It was very easy to turn the subject to the fact that we cannot take our money with us when we go so that we need treasure in heaven. The gentleman explained how he has read books by a Jewish historian which show that Jesus was just a man. And the gentleman was a retired High Court judge! A long conversation followed with myself and another pastor. The judge took a tract. He even goes to church but sadly with absolutely no faith in Christ and not wanting such.
Later, getting on my bicycle at Waterloo, a conversation starts with a fellow cyclist, a lovely young man from Moldova called Dimitri. Cyclists love to talk about their bikes. The conversation started as I jokingly offered to swap bikes. My bike is nearly 50 years old so this is always quite funny. Anyway after a short conversation I just took a tract out of my pocket and offered it to him. The conversation that followed was both interesting and terribly sad.
The Inevitable Despair of Atheism
Dimitri had made up his mind to be an atheist. He had an atheist grandfather and an Eastern Orthodox grandmother and he had broadly followed the grandmother. Then a relative came to the UK and discovered the liberal lifestyle and introduced Dimitri to it. I tried to explain that Eastern Orthodox is a religion of works and did not give the peace and joy and assurance of real Christianity. I am not sure how much of this sunk in. However what really shocked me was that despite his new found freedom, Dimitri said that life was mostly "s**t". I said that it wasn't so for Christians. He said there was no evidence for Christianity. I more or less said that my experience was all the evidence he needed.
I pointed to the hopelessness of atheism and asked if it concerned him. Dimitri's answer was chilling. "There is always an easy way out". I asked him what he meant. Yes, you guessed it, another terrible "s" word which I would rather not type here. I then asked him if he was ok. He said he was ok.
What was so chilling was the cold, calculated way in which the atheist had thought out the possibility of taking his own life as if it was a perfectly reasonable option... even though he claimed to have a better and more true belief than the Christian.
Always Opportunity to Evangelise
So, in conclusion, street preaching has its place, but it is not the be all and end all. We can have significant conversations in the normal course of life simply if we are genuinely friendly. In neither of these cases did I start the conversation in order to evangelise. The point is that if the salvation of souls is on our hearts, surely we will pray to be able to turn conversations around. It is amazing how many people are very, very interested in talking about the claims of Jesus Christ. In both of these cases there were other people either listening or joining in our conversation.
On Saturday 27th May 2023 Dr David Allen gave a heartwarming address at a service of thanksgiving for the Holy Trinity congregation of the Church of England Continuing located in Frinton upon Sea, Essex.
By Rev Peter Ratcliff
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