It’s Been Awhile
Back on August 1st of 2020 I went out and preached in the open air for the first time in almost a year. The last ten months or so have been incredibly challenging for a plethora of reasons. None more challenging than the way society has been reacting to COVID19.
Some of my favorite places to preach the Gospel are college campuses. Places like the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls are wonderful target rich environments. I have not failed once in engaging with students at UNI. Even better is the fact that I have a support structure in place in Cedar Falls. So, some of those more challenging situations I find myself in some areas are mitigated through local prayer warriors in the Cedar Falls area. Sadly, UNI and every campus I have preached at or done outreach on were shut down this past spring.
Worse still, most people were staying cooped up well into mid-July or even later. The elected servants of We the People had managed to scare most people into staying put in their houses. So, on August 1st I ventured to my old stomping grounds in Lanesboro. I was not disappointed. Consequently, I discovered just how much my soul needed to hear the Gospel. If even from my own lips as people rode and walked by paying me no heed…
It had been far too long…
A Challenging Discovery
I have a friend I met through FaceBook, Andrew Rappaport, that used to do these weekly challenges. He would post a random picture he found and kind of “dare” his friends to transition to the Gospel from the picture.
I know why he did this. Maybe the most challenging thing for any Christian is moving a conversation from the natural to the spiritual without being awkward. As I used to joke, it isn’t hard to get to the topic of God in any conversation really, just watch:
Stranger walking by nods- Hi! How are ya?
Me- I’m ok. How are you?
Stranger- Not too shabby. What about this weather huh?
Me- I know right. It’s beautiful. Could use some rain though.
Stranger- Yeah, but what do ya do?
Me- Not much ya can do.
Me sheepishly- Speaking of the weather. Do you know who made weather? God! God made the weather. Are you right with God? If you died right now would you go to heaven when you die?
Stranger looks stupefied and terrified all at once and runs away dialing 911 as he goes…
It isn’t hard to transition from the natural to the spiritual at all really. The ease of the transition isn’t what is challenging. The biggest challenge is transitioning smoothly in the natural ebb and flow of conversation.
What I discovered that Saturday in Lanesboro is was that no matter how well equipped you may think you are; transitions are never easy. And at times, they can be painful because they touch on open wounds and rawness of emotion.
Three Open Air Sermons, Two Topics, The One Solution, The One True God
That day I preached three times. Each of them about forty minutes long. I know that sounds incredibly long for open air preaching. I have had people critique my long-winded nature before. But I am incredibly reliant upon the foundational truth that God accomplishes His purposes through means. His word never fails in what He has sent it to do.
There is a certain skill in preaching the Gospel in short bursts at places like intersections and stop lights. I can do that too. But there is also something to be said for picking a topic and pushing into it. That Saturday I decided to speak to the obvious issues at hand. COVID19 and cultural upheaval.
Some of you may say to yourselves that those are easy enough transitions. Conversely, some of you may be thinking that it is a stretch to try and get from COVID19 to the Gospel. In either case, both arguments can be valid. It would be the easiest thing to preach about COVID19 and sound like a crazed long-haired maniac doomsayer claiming God had sent COVID19 to punish us. Even if I thought that it was true, I would not want to use that as my platform.
The common cliché of Western Christian Culture these days is, “The Gospel is the answer to everything!” Do I disagree with that? No. But what I assert is that simply telling people to “repent and believe the Gospel” as they walk by isn’t addressing the depth of what is happening in our day. Helping people overcome the propaganda induced ethnic division and fear of a virus with a 99.7% survival rate takes meeting it head on.
That is where the transition is challenging.
A Parting and Encouragement and Challenging Thought
I want to ask you to practice this.
Not just if you happen to be an open-air preacher.
Nor simply as a person that engages in frequent public evangelism.
This one skill can be the most useful for those of you who see the preponderance of their Gospel related conversations take place in the context of relationships.
Learn to transition from challenging current events to the Gospel. Practice this by reading the newspaper and knowing what is happening in the world. Pick sweet stories and sad stories from local news stations. Watch national outlets and use headline stories to practice the transition.
For the next few months, I will put effort into putting out a weekly video at the “If Only Even One” YouTube channel. I will take my own challenge. I will pick challenging topics or stories and try and find a way to transition smoothly and naturally to the Gospel. As the weeks go by, I may ask the few of you that read my rambling vomitous musings to challenge me by sending me links to different news pieces. In turn I may ask you to share videos of you doing the same.
What could it hurt for all us to get better at preaching the Gospel and sharing it with one another?
Soli Deo Gloria!