Anyone who has signed up for Team Hope's newsletter or who knows Rick Orr knew about the Volkswagon showcase event that happened this past Saturday. Rick entered his two VW buses from the '60's in order to invade the crowd and get to reach them with the Gospel. He asked for reinforcements, but I didn't plan to go. I didn't think that I would be energized enough after flag football.
Well, it turned out that my ride to football had other plans, and, with my phone being down, the substitute driver wasn't able to get ahold of me to get directions. This meant that my morning was restful, and that I had no excuse for not going to the Pier that afternoon!
So I showed up with my guitar and no tracts only to see Shawn Ostermann there--and he had tracts! I put my guitar down and handed out tracts and engaged those who would stop in conversation.
One guy who accepted a tract did not stop for a conversation but for a rant. His name tag said, "Joe C." and he proceeded to blast us for "canvassing," saying that "some people are beyond the grace of God!"
No, he wasn't a Calvinist, he was a Catholic--or so he said. Last I checked, the Catholic church officially teaches (now, not all Catholics know this) that even the Muslims are under the grace of God, though, if you claim to be a Christian and are not Catholic, you are condemned and God's grace is not extended to you. He said that he had been to every church imaginable and found that the only people who do all this "canvassing" are the wicked people who claim salvation and then try to do something to earn favor with God. I think he was confusing loving Christians who reach out to their fellow man with Jehovah's Witnesses, who do practice their form of street evangelism for the purpose of receiving salvation.
Speaking of whom, the next guy I talked to was one of them. He tried to say that JW's and Christians believe almost the same thing. I didn't let him get away with that: "No, you guys don't believe that Jesus is God."
He asked for proof from the Scriptures, and I gladly gave it to him, point out that Jesus' very Hebrew name demands His deity (Y'shua means "YHWH [or Jehovah] is the Savior"), so that Jesus cannot claim to be Savior without also claiming to be deity at the same time. I also pointed out that Jesus said, "I and My Father are One," "If you have seen Me, then you have seen the Father," and that John had written that Jesus reveals the Father to those who have not seen God (John 1:18).
When he saw that he could not win by going that route, he switched to the argument that Christians approve killing, against the Law of God. It was all that he kept harping on, that Christians were not really following Christ, because we allowed and promoted killing (as in war time). When I pointed out that God had Himself authorized wars, he gave that garbage-can objection that many "Christians" use when they want to escape responsibility for a hard truth: But that was the Old Testament. So I reminded him of Romans 13, but he didn't hear it.
Finally, his wife came back around, and, after a few more words, they just walked away with hardened hearts, convinced that they were right. I was frustrated, because I had hoped to engage them a little better. Ah, the success of labels! If I had quizzed him on his beliefs instead of assuming that he held to every JW doctrine, we might have had a more productive conversation. As it was, we had an argument, which got us nowhere. Better strategy next time.
Then it was on to more tracting, until Carrie and Barb came near. We were perfectly placed across from an eye-catching "short bus," VW-style, and many people commenting on it were very quickly handed a tract. Well, Carrie and Barb seemed far too engaging to just hand a tract to, so I teased them with the Pink and Blue: Which one is bigger?
Thus engaged, we carried on a very un-spiritual conversation that I kept trying hard to get around that corner, but it wasn't working. They and Shawn kept talking about fishing, which was interesting (for me, who doesn't fish) and which also gave us very good rapport. I was willing to keep good rapport as the only experience, knowing that the curved illusion cards that I had just given Barb have the Gospel message written on them, but wanting to establish a seed in their hearts before letting them go. Then the third member of their party walked up (I think her name is Jen, but my memory is fogging up right now; Shawn, if you remember, let me know), and I could understand why the Lord made me wait.
We continued to have a good conversation with her, while the other two got interested in some of the busses (I think they were even looking at Rick's) and then came back. I asked Barb about her background, and we both agreed that living in St Pete, one can say or do many outrageous things and people just accept it. Little did she know that my controversial habit was forthcoming. Immediately.
"Have you ever taken the Good Person Test?" As much as some people may hate the test, it worked to get us talking about spiritual things. It is a tool, not an end. And the conversation was going reasonably well. I mean, no, Carrie was not very keen on the idea about being condemned for telling a lie, but we were being cordial about it and quite pleasant, even though we were disagreeing.
But then Joe came back. Two Sundays ago, (the archive date is April 26, 2009) Pastor Danny talked about how interruptions come just at that crucial, important point in the conversation about the Gospel. He was right.
Honestly, the conversation was taking a nose-dive for a minute, but, with patience and kindness, Shawn and I were pulling it back up. But when Joe stepped up and I made eye-contact with him, he started trashing us for wasting our time on "those people" -- right in front of them!! I tried to save our encounter by pleading, "Why are you saying this about these people? I love them! and Jesus does, too!" But Barb pushed Carrie's arm, "Let's get out of here."
I was furious. Rick had stepped into the conversation about a minute before and was able with Shawn to hold Jen's attention for another couple of minutes while I pulled Joe away, hoping that they would be able to continue what we had started. I blasted Joe, but he justified himself. Then Barb and Carrie came back and pulled Jen away, and now Joe had to justify himself to all three Christians. Well, he tried.
Later I remembered what Paul had done to Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 14 and wished that I had recalled it in time to do so and more also to him, but it must have been the grace of God that I didn't. God does love Joe, too, so please pray for him and the ladies. God bless you.