October 14, 2008

Grace Abounding: Evangelism in York again

While I was at McDonald's waiting for Matt, I received a voice message from my S. Texas friend, Julian. I haven't heard from him in 2 1/2 years! Julian professed faith in Christ while talking with a fellow evangelist on the street near the University of Pittsburgh in 2006. He is also the one who taught me how to make Pico de Gallo and helped me begin to get interested in learning Spanish. I called him back later, also leaving a message. This time I quoted Efesios 2:8-9 to him to show him how much I've learned.

Matt had some more questions for me, and we were looking them up in the Bible, while the older lady was sweeping the floor nearby. She asked, "Is that the Bible?" I said, "Yeah. Are you a Bible reader, too?" She said, "Yes I am." She kept on sweeping the floor, so I said, "That's awesome" and smiled at her. She has been noticing us for some time now, so I think God is giving us a little favor with the McDonald's crowd (again, we are two young white guys in a mostly black and Hispanic McDonald's, so hopefully in a little more time we may start more conversations with those who work there... If the Lord wills).

We hit the streets afterward, and since the weather was so beautiful and warm, people were leisurely strolling about in the square. First guy we met was named "Day-day." He was hanging out like a homeless man, but I couldn't be sure. He had a big cross around his neck, so I sat down beside him and we talked about faith in Christ. He was going to church and watching Benny Hinn and other TV preachers for his soul food, so I asked him, "What about the gospel? What is it all about?" He didn't know, but thought it had to do with doing enough good works to get to heaven. He seemed interested in the tract I gave him, and his attitude was cheerful, so we talked some more about the cross, then left him to go walk around the block, praying along the way.
We met some more people briefly, handing out gospel tracts along the way. We then walked up to two guys hanging around a park bench, John and Terry. Terry only had one leg and needed to get a cab, so John was going to call one for him, but then he didn't need to. We talked for a bit, and John said he was a born-again Christian. He shared a brief testimony that seemed like maybe he knew the Lord, but maybe not (I couldn't tell). I said to Terry (the older man), "Do you know the song, 'Amazing Grace'? You know how it goes, 'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." I explained that we are the "grace men," just talking to people about God's grace. I said, "Grace is for hell-deserving sinners. Do you deserve to go to hell?" Terry said no, then looked at me and said, "Do you deserve hell?" I said, "If God doesn't send me to hell, there is something terribly wrong, 'cuz I violated every one of those ten commands." Then I explained the cross of Christ and how Grace through Christ Jesus is the only way, not works. Some more interaction with John and Terry went on, then we headed up to my car. On the way, we met some skater kids walking down the street. Two out of three accepted tracts, and one stopped to talk briefly.

A few other gracious things happened, which I don't have time to go into detail about, but our time in York tonight was brief, nevertheless very encouraging to me. People were a little open tonight. Probably partly due to the nice whether, yet even that is mercy from God... for now. Until then, here's a very important quote from A. W. Tozer on the practice of "Accepting Christ":

The formula "Accept Christ" has become a panacea of universal application, and I believe it has been fatal to many...

The trouble is that the whole "Accept Christ" attitude is likely to be wrong. It shows Christ [appealing] to us rather than us to Him. It makes Him stand hat-in-hand awaiting our verdict on Him, instead of our kneeling with troubled hearts awaiting His verdict on us. It may even permit us to accept Christ by an impulse of mind or emotions, painlessly, at no cost to our ego and no inconvenience to our usual way of life.

For this ineffectual manner of dealing with a vital matter we might imagine some parallels; as if, for instance, Israel in Egypt had "accepted" the blood of the Passover but continued to live in bondage, or the prodigal son had "accepted" his father's forgiveness and stayed on among the swine in the far country. Is it not 

plain that if accepting Christ is to mean anything there must be moral action that accords with it?

- A. W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1964), 18.

P.S. Please excuse my goofy non-irreverent photo of me pulling a 'crazy street preacher' stunt. It is all of grace, and I thank God for His grace that fills us with love to reach out to those I would normally have no love for.

God bless and grace to all in Christ!


Stephanie said...

It's always encouraging to read about your street evangelism adventures! Here's a question though, do you think God specifically gifts certain people for this kind of work? I've known people who really seemed gifted in this area, whereas others prefer to witness to people they build relationships with - co-workers, neighbors, friends, etc...any thoughts?
p.s. nice street-witnessing stunt :) ha.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Hi Stephanie,

To answer your question, yes. It wouldn't be a body if everyone were a tongue or a tooth ;)

The one thing I believe all Christians must be doing is praying. Praying for the pastors/teachers/evangelists/ministry workers, and praying for all types of people to hear the good news. I like to say, God gives the gifts, so they are His gifts not ours, He chooses who to give them to. We pray and He gives. Then as Johnny P. likes to say, "The Giver gets the glory."

Sharon said...

Haha, funny picture!

Penn Tomassetti said...


on another note, I think there is a problem with much of what people call "friendship evangelism." Don't get me wrong, I think we should befriend unbelievers, but we also need to remember that we are called to deliver a message the world does not want to hear and is not going to welcome. I also believe that all who are born of the Spirit have God's love poured into our hearts, and that love is what motivates us to seek to win the lost, whether it is on a street corner or at a funeral, or in the car with someone or in our own homes.

Stephanie said...

I agree with you there, Penn. I think "Friendship evangelism" is good if it means building a friendship AND clearly sharing the message of the gospel. I think the problem is that sometimes the message doesn't come out - we're too passive. (I don't think you have a problem with this though!) Thanks for your thoughts.

Penn Tomassetti said...

"(I don't think you have a problem with this though!)"

Well, that would be nice if I really didn't!

Rita Martinez said...

"I think the problem is that sometimes the message doesn't come out - we're too passive."
Steph you are so right its happened to me before...for some reason its easier to witness to a total stranger, than to someone you're already acquainted with...