Thinking Out Loud

March 18, 2016

Doing My Evangelisitic Duty

This Yonge Street Mission fundraising album's cover shot sees the street in warmer days than described in today's article. See today's footnote for a song from the L.P.

This Yonge Street Mission fundraising album’s cover shot sees the street in warmer days than described in today’s article. See today’s footnote for a song from the L.P.

“A bunch of us are going downtown on Saturday night to hand out tracts? Wanna join us?”

The invitation seems so straight forward. I was a Christian youth leader and I should really not try to avoid these evangelistic opportunities. It was the 1980s and tracts were still considered a viable form of outreach. Plus, it was downtown Toronto and I was committed to urban ministry. I’d also been spending a lot of time preaching to the choir; it would be good to do some genuine outreach.

And so, on Saturday night at 10:00 PM, there I was, one of two lone figures standing on the corner of Yonge (pronounced young) and Dundas in the bitter cold. Looking several blocks north, the time/temperature sign flashed minus 20° and that was -20 Celsius, not -20 Fahrenheit. And yet somehow it was snowing. Usually in weather that cold you don’t get snowfall. Furthermore, it was downtown, so when the snow stopped falling from the sky it would start blowing from the office tower roofs.

Probably well over half of the passersby refused to take a tract. Some would take one and drop it a few feet up or down the street, but others, including those who had refused, would see the bright colors on the front and bend down to pick them up.

When it got too cold one of us would go to the Yonge Street Mission to warm up and someone else would take their place. Rob was a young Christian with zeal for Christ and a desire to get into conversations with people. Craig knew his Bible well, but was distracted by the prostitutes who used Ford Drugs as a base. (I think we were standing on their corner.) “I have a ministry to beautiful women;” was how he described it.

They weren’t that beautiful. They were career hookers; a plight made more pathetic by attempts to wear something skimpy on a freezing cold night. It was the only time in my life I really had direct contact with people who ply that trade, and they looked like the years of working the sex industry and doing drugs had taken its toll.

I should not have been out there.

I’m not saying that because of the weather, although this was a stage in my life when simply looking at the ice cube in a soda would mean catching a cold. I mean that I wish I knew then what I know now. (And will say that someday about what I’m writing now.)

I didn’t know the basics of apologetics. There’s no training course or prerequisite for buying some packages of tracts and launching out into the downtown core of a major city. I didn’t consider that you reason differently with a pseudo-intellectual than you do with a guy working on his doctorate in philosophy.  I didn’t know the basic objections people have to Christianity and how to respond to each. For that matter, I didn’t know my Bible all that well.

We also weren’t trained in the dynamics of people who frequent urban centers. The runaways. The psychotics. The addicts. The homeless. The wounded. We didn’t know what to say or what not to say. How to diffuse an argument. What to do when people asked us for money.

We also had no follow-up plan. I do remember some of the tracts being rubber-stamped with a phone number, or maybe it was an address. But I can’t remember — and this totally embarrassing to admit — who it was we claimed to represent, aside from Jesus. I know in one case it was a church, but one night the tracts were stamped with a different church, and we also encouraged people to go to the Yonge Street Mission to warm up or continue a conversation.

If someone had asked to be prayed for we might have been helpful, but if they said they wanted to accept Christ right then and there, you could probably knock us over with a feather. (Okay, we were better equipped than that, but it was a potential weakness which I had remedied in my own life one or two years after.) We weren’t trained to see the question behind the question, or know when they were sincere or when they were just baiting us.

It was a lot of zeal, a lot of desire, a lot of commitment (in view of the weather); but not a whole lot of anything else. We just showed up and went to work, oblivious to any other ministries working in the downtown or even the fact that our ‘spot’ on that corner actually belonged to the ladies of the evening.

So…good memory or bad memory?

It was part of my personal spiritual development. There are aspects of it that I can say I would do all over again, but certainly not without training, a better battle plan, and greater accountability. We’ll never know in this life what the fruit of that ministry was, but I think in the long run it was better to do something than to do nothing.

 

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April 4, 2015

Weekend Link List

Pull up a chair and join us for some weekend links

Pull up a chair and join us for some weekend links

Featured Stories

David Cameron’s Easter Message – While both U.S. President Barak Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both claim Christianity as their own, I haven’t heard of either one penning a faith-centered message for Easter. Was the British Prime Minister in over his depth? “I’m hardly a model church-going, God-fearing Christian. Like so many others, I’m a bit hazy on the finer points of our faith.” Theologically, I suppose this is a bit of train wreck, but full marks for trying. He ends, “I hope everyone can share in the belief of trying to lift people up rather than count people out… That after all is the heart of the Christian message. It’s the principle around which the Easter celebration is built. Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children. And today, that message matters more than ever.” The heart of Easter at your church may vary slightly.

Responding to a Spouse’s Sexual Sin – Part of a video series, The Mingling of Souls where Matt Chandler and Lauren Chandler answer questions. Lauren: “Although it feels intensely personal, it is not. It is an issue in her husband’s heart that’s rooted in sin, it is sin; it’s coveting; it’s rooted in choosing the creation over the creator; it’s against God, and though it feels very personal, it’s not personal… What a privilege, as painful as it is, that she gets to be a part of his reconciliation to the Lord and to her, and how she gets to be the hands and feet of Jesus; that she gets to be a minister of the gospel to her own husband. It’s hard, and it involves a pouring out, and it is very much like Jesus did for us… You will have to sustain something that feels very offensive, but Jesus did it first for you.”

The Wedding Cake Issue Just Got Exponentially More Complicated – Benjamin L. Corey thinks there’s more than just one reason for a Christian to refuse to do a wedding cake. He’s got ten, one of which is: “The Bible clearly states in Deuteronomy 24 that a man cannot serve in the military during his first year of marriage. If you sell a cake to that young military couple, you will be endorsing a lifestyle that is directly rebelling against God’s inerrant word. Don’t do it!” Plus, according to Ezekiel, you shouldn’t do the cake if one of them works at a bank.

Children’s Ministry Reveals Much About Adult Ministry – “I truly believe that you can get a sense about how your church feels about the Bible by looking no further than the children’s wing of the church. In a way, Sunday School is a great litmus test to see how important the Word of God is to the larger church… Do children have Bibles in their hands at church? Do they open those Bibles when they are in Sunday School? …Make sure to peer behind the aesthetics of children’s ministry. Take an interest in what is being taught and don’t let visual appearance fool you.”

Faith Focused Film Announcement of the Week – “Hugh Jackman will be playing the role of Paul, and he, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck will produce the film under their Pearl Street Films production company. The film is believed to cover Paul’s conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus, his ministry to the gentiles and his imprisonment. Jackman told Parade magazine in 2009 that he is a student of transcendental meditation … His father, however, became a born-again Christian after attending a Billy Graham crusade in Australia, which Jackman attended as a young boy.”

Childbirth Imagery in The Cross – “Early and medieval Christians were less reluctant than many of us to imagine God in motherly terms…Imagining Easter as a kind of childbirth offers us another way to understand Christ’s suffering on the cross. Birth is not passive, pointless, cruel suffering. It is active work—labor. Women who have given birth sometimes speak of the great sense of strength and triumph they feel when their baby finally emerges. These mothers suffered pain, perhaps even risked death, to bring forth someone new, to bring forth new life. And so when Jesus goes to the cross “for the joy set before him,” as the writer of Hebrews puts it, it’s not masochistic, nor is it passive. He puts forth strength and endurance; like childbirth, it is a commitment to struggle.”

Street Preacher Told Not to Use Certain Verses – “A street preacher has been told by a judge which Bible verse he should have used when discussing homosexuality, as he was convicted of a public order offense at Bristol Crown Court…In court Judge Shamim Qureshi told Overd that he should have used Leviticus 18 instead of Leviticus 20 to make a point about homosexuality, the Christian Legal Center said. Overd commented: ‘I am amazed that the Judge sees it as his role to dictate which parts of the Bible can and can’t be preached. This is not free speech but censorship. The Judge is redacting the Bible‘, he added.”

Bible Reading Blues – “I always felt like I was drinking from a shallow well in every single Bible Reading Plan I picked. I’d lose steam and feel guilty that I wasn’t checking off my daily reading, I’d forget where I was reading, or forget the narrative line. I found myself spending more time trying to piece together things than actually reading and ingesting what I was reading. I loved the Word of God, but I mostly loved it because I knew there was life in it, not because I actually felt life in my reading.” But then the scene changes, “I saw themes I hadn’t seen before, and I understood Paul as a person in a way I never had. It was as though my Bible reading went from watching a drama take place on a stage to actually being a part of the play.”

Churches Have Bullies, Too – Thom Rainer: “They wreak havoc and create dissension. They typically must have an “enemy” in the church, because they aren’t happy unless they are fighting a battle. They tend to maneuver to get an official leadership position in the church, such as chairman of the elders or deacons or treasurer. But they may have bully power without any official position. Church bullies have always been around. But they seem to be doing their work more furiously today than in recent history.”

Finally… – On Easter Sunday, if you’re doing Children’s ministry, you can offer to bring both the craft and the snack.

From Stuff Fundies Like: Gospel Baptist Church wants to make extra special sure that you don’t think women are in charge of anything more important than the nursery. They want to make so sure that they had an extra banner made just to point it out.

From Stuff Fundies Like:  Gospel Baptist Church wants to make extra special sure that you don’t think women are in charge of anything more important than the nursery. They want to make so sure that they had an extra banner made just to point it out.

Short Takes

  • That moment where your 21-year old son, who was in to Dubstep and Electronica writes you from college to say this is his favorite song right now.
  • New York City churches are allowed to rent schools, for now. The Mayor: “While we review and revise the rules, groups currently permitted to use schools for worship will continue to be able to worship on school premises.”
  • Tweens and porn in the UK: “Shocking new figures reveal that one in ten 12 to 13-year-olds believe they may be addicted to pornography, and 12 per cent admit to having made or taken part in a sexually explicit video.”
  • Passover like you’ve never seen it. A 2-minute video.
  • It’s a different type of small group, one that is a faction that forms against the pastor. “28 percent of pastors have been pushed out of their churches by attacks that originated from a relatively small group of people… Nearly half of those pastors who had left then seriously considered abandoning ministry altogether.”
  • It’s been out there for a while, but I just noticed that 3 of the Top Ten bloggers on this Top 100 Christian blogs list are Canadian, including the first two.
  • I get what Fred Clark’s doing with this series, but the series itself needs a better name.
  • Finally, from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s media division, TwentyOneHundred Productions, we finally know how the Apostle Paul drafted his letters:

Paul's Epistle Template

 

 

April 10, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Community Baptist Church

I’m a success at blogging but a failure at Twitter. Please follow me… please?

Any one of this week’s links could have been its own feature article.  By the way, I’m organizing a travel opportunity that begins in a Wesleyan college in western New York and ends in Jerusalem. I call it the Israel Houghton Tour.

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