Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Nigel the Black Hebrew Israelite

Today was my first time preaching alone at Pershing Square. I set up just outside the square, on the northwest corner of 6th Street and Hill Street. It's a great spot. Constant pedestrian traffic and a large sidewalk area large enough for people to stop and listen without running into each other.

Many people were praying for me, and my sister encouraged me to read Psalm 25, which I did. After reading Psalm 25 and praying, I decided to try to read the entirety of the Gospel of John, in the open-air. I began with a gospel presentation. No sooner did I finish that gospel presentation that a young, black man named Nigel approached me. It's possible Nigel isn't his real name. It took him a few moments to recall it. As soon as he asked me a couple of questions, I knew I was dealing with a Black Hebrew Israelite, a racist cult that hates "the white man's Bible," "the white man's Jesus,' and "the white man." Black Hebrew Israelites also hate any person of color who does not hate white people.

For 90 minutes I read John 1-10 aloud while periodically engaging Nigel. I did my best to apply the wisdom of Solomon. I did not answer Nigel so not to be like him (Proverbs 26:4). And I did answer Nigel so as not to allow him to be too wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26:5).

Nigel was relentless. Taking time only to catch his breath and collect his thoughts, Nigel was profane, self-deceived, and blasphemous with every hate-filled word that came out of his mouth (Matthew 15:17-20). It's been some time since I encountered a heckler as depraved as Nigel.

By God's grace there were a couple moments of peace and rejoicing as I stood atop the step stool. One young man stopped to ask me if I was familiar with Ray Comfort. I told him I was. Another man stopped to listen. When he heard Nigel berating me, he smiled at me and told me to keep preaching the Word of God. The man was able to distract Nigel with conversation, which allowed me to finish reading John 10 and preach the law and the gospel.

When I finished preaching and packed up my gear, I started for the subway station. Nigel followed me and continuing his self-righteous, scornful harangue. He seemed genuinely stunned when I asked him if he wanted to join me for a cup of coffee. It was the first time I saw him smile. But he quickly pulled himself together and told me he would only sit down with me if I would debate him. I told him I couldn't. To do so would be to cast pearls before swine.

Nigel followed me all the way to the subway station entrance, calling me "Esau" and other assorted names.

Sadly, in the Black Hebrew Israelites, Nigel found a religious cult that encourages him to hate The Triune God, the Word of God, people made in the image of God, and the only Savior who can forgive his sins.

Here is the unedited audio of my time at Pershing Square.

WARNING: this audio instances of blasphemy, the 'N' word, and other profane speech.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Living on Infinite Regress Avenue in Absurdityville


Yesterday, I was really blessed. The Lord gave me the opportunity to take to the streets of Los Angeles with two younger brothers in Christ--Jorge and Andrew. These two men of God co-lead the Evangelism Society at The Master's College, where they are both students. Jorge was too busy honorably and sacrificially serving his country in the military, right out of high school, to get an early start on college. Andrew will graduate this year and is hoping to attend Westminster Theological Seminary, Southern California.

Mahria and others were a bit nervous about me heading into downtown Los Angeles alone to open-air preach. It's good to be loved. :-) There was a collective sigh of relief when Mahria and others concerned heard that I had a couple brothers going with me.

It was a wonderful day of fellowship and ministry. We evangelized at Pershing Square and on Hollywood Boulevard, with a break for an amazing pastrami sandwich at a place just outside MacArthur Park. Many people heard the gospel by way of open-air preaching and conversations. And many others received the gospel by way of gospel tracts.

Some audio and possibly video from the day's efforts is forthcoming.

While waiting on the subway platform to make our way back to North Hollywood Station from Hollywood Boulevard, we met Omar. Omar claimed to have grown up in a Christian church, but converted to Islam because there was so much he didn't like about Christianity. Omar asserted, among other things: the Bible was written by a white man named King James; the concept of "one God" was brought about by King Tut's father; Jesus never existed.

While some might think it a little too sarcastic, I told Omar that he spent entirely too much time on the Internet.

Omar was also one of those people who wanted to have a conversation, so long as he was the only person to speak. When I could slip a word or two in, I asked Omar, "How do you account for truth and determine what is true?"

With a slight stammer, as his mind tried to catch up to his mouth, Omar answered, "Well, it's the truth that will set you free!"

"Omar, do you see what you just did? You assert that the Bible can't be trusted and that Jesus never existed, yet you quote the words of Jesus, from the Bible. You can't account for truth without coming into the Christian worldview to do it."

Befuddled and even angrier, Omar tried to change the subject with ad hominems and more Internet-derived wisdom. Sadly, this is all-too-often the response of unbelievers when confronted with the reality that their attempt to defend and live according to a worldview without God is to live in a windowless and doorless condo, in Absurdityville. And how does one make himself comfortable while locked in his home on Infinite Regress Avenue? It's simple and common: deny; dismiss; deflect; disdain.

While the conversation didn't go well, Omar was confronted with the reality he has always known: God exists, and he hates Him. For a moment, Omar was forced to deal with the reality of his self-imposed absurdity.

Much of American Evangelicalism would assert my encounter with Omar was a failure. After all, I didn't hear his whole story. I confronted him with truth. We didn't agree to disagree. And Omar may never join the "Christian" club. Yet my evangelistic efforts with Omar were anything but a failure. I stood on the truth of God's Word. I implored him to repent of his blasphemous idolatry (before parting company, Omar asserted he was god--not very Muslim of him). And Jorge, Andrew, and I prayed Omar would have no rest until the Holy Spirit convicted him of his sin and brought him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

There are only two worldviews: the truth or all lies; the worship of the one, true God or all other forms of religious belief (i.e. Catholicism, Muhammadanism, Mormonism, Buddhism, Atheism, and every other man-made "ism"); submission to the Creator or worship of that which is created. Sadly, the vast majority of people in the world today are like Omar. They walk in darkness. They walk not in ignorance, but in willful rebellion against the God they know, whether they are numbered among aborigines living far removed from the modern world or they are among the academic elite sitting in their first-world ivory towers.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen" (Romans 1:18-25).
Omar couldn't account for truth while trying to live outside the Christian worldview. Neither can anyone else, be it the college student with only a semester of philosophy under his belt or the current pope of atheism, Richard Dawkins.

Omar was right about something. Only the truth will set him free.
"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'" (John 8:31-32).

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Ray Comfort: A Genuine Man of God


The above photo represents just one of many times Ray Comfort and I have prayed together. The occasion in this photo was just before Ray preached at Huntington Beach, during the last Ambassadors' Academy (#20).

I have been a Christian for more than 26 years. During the second half of my lifetime, I have been blessed to not only meet, but to come to know as friends, many genuine men of God--men I respect, men who are my friends, men I love. Pastors, open-air preachers, laymen of various stripes and professional backgrounds (including law enforcement). So many men have, and still do, positively and significantly impacted my life that it would be impossible to name them all.

But if I had to pick one man, while desperately not wanting to offend the many godly men I know (including the very godly men with whom I served at Living Waters)--one man who has impacted my life more than any other--it would have to be Ray Comfort.


Ray Comfort's Impact on the World

Yesterday, I watched a six-minute micro-documentary about Ray Comfort, which was posted on Facebook. After watching "10 out of 10 Die," I posted the following comment:
"Ray Comfort is a once-in-a-century kind of man. That the Lord would so bless me by allowing me to spend more than four years in day-to-day, side-by-side ministry with Ray Comfort is, to this day, beyond my full comprehension. Ray Comfort has positively, spiritually impacted my life more than any man.

"I have never met a more humble, Bible-saturated, Christ-loving, gospel-focused, man of honor, integrity, selflessness, and generosity than Ray Comfort.

"I could go on. And someday I just might."
Well, now is as good a time as any to "go on" about Ray Comfort.

There is so much Ray Comfort has done for the Body of Christ, as well as for individuals, both saved and lost. To go into too much detail would only serve to embarrass Ray. I will say this. I believe, when Ray's time comes, he will have more crowns to lay at his Master's feet than just about any man who has ever lived.

Think about it.

We can all think of great evangelists throughout the ages. In doing so, we can all think of men who might have been more theological than Ray, more eloquent than Ray, more famous than Ray, more beloved than Ray. But I challenge anyone to think of another man who, just in his own lifetime, has inspired more people to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ than Ray Comfort.

Don't hurt yourself trying to come up with someone. You won't think of anyone.

If I had a dollar for every person, literally around the world, who has said to me, "My life was forever changed when I read 'The Way of the Master," I would never again have to raise support. Some of the men I consider the very best open-air preachers in the world today got their starts when they opened one of Ray's books, attended one of Ray's conferences, watched one of Ray's YouTube videos, or watched an episode of the television show "The Way of the Master."

Ray Comfort has instructed and encouraged thousands upon thousands of Christians to proclaim the gospel. Some of those people were enthused for only a season. Others were motivated for life. Others have made evangelism their way of life and their livelihood as a direct result of Ray Comfort's influence. I am one of those people. Still others include Ray Comfort in their salvation testimony--people who lived for years as false converts, but were drawn to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ after hearing Ray preach the gospel.

Now, just picture in your mind, if you can, all of those Christians Ray has impacted, and then picture all of them proclaiming the gospel. Some are distributing tracts with a smile so bright, so wide, it's obvious that the joy of the Lord is their strength. Can you see them?

Some no longer have the word "stranger" in their vocabulary, for they talk to everyone they meet about Jesus. They see everyone as more important than themselves. Can you see them?

And some remind the world that there are still prophets (those forth-telling God's truth revealed in His Word), heralds, in the land--men of God willing to risk life and limb, position and popularity, and even the consternation and rejection of their churches and a Christ-less system called "American Evangelicalism" to stand atop a box, or a stool, or a park bench, just to fill their lungs with air and roar like a lion for Jesus' sake. Can you see them?

I can. I can see them. I have seen them. I do see them. I see them most every day of my life. And when I see them I cannot help but to also see the beaming smile draped now in a beard and the sparkling shimmer in the eyes of Ray Comfort.


Ray the Preacher

Ray Comfort's message has not changed in some 40 years. The reason: the gospel has not changed in 40 years, and it never will. The gospel is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The way Ray communicates that never-changing gospel hasn't changed either. Trivia, the "Good Person Test," the law and the gospel, the call to repent and believe, answering questions, the law and the gospel, the call to repent and believe, more questions, and so on. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

I remember being with Ray one afternoon on the campus of USC. For almost two hours, Ray handled everything the young, stubborn, arrogant, intellectually elite students (and a few professors) could throw at him. One-by-one, he dismantled godless worldviews and arguments, always bringing the conversation back to the gospel. For almost two hours, Ray preached, debated, and smiled. It was fitting we were on a college campus that day, for Ray took all of us who were with him through a Master's Degree-level class in open-air preaching.

Ray is more consistent than an In-n-Out Double-Double (Socal burger reference). Every time Ray steps atop a box or some other apparatus to elevate his diminutive frame, those familiar with him know exactly what they are going to get. It's never boring--not because Ray isn't entertaining (he is), but because the gospel is never boring. And it's never boring to hear the gospel come from the mouth of a man who loves Jesus, loves people, and loves the mission to which the Lord has called him as much as Ray Comfort does.

Ray Comfort, more than any man I know, truly loves lost people. While Ray's emotions run very deep, he would not describe himself as a crying man. In fact, he used to tease me because I can cry like a baby, over just about anything. "Tony, you're not going to cry again, are you?" He would ask me with a a wink and a smile.

To see and understand just how much Ray loves lost people, you need to watch the end of his open-air interactions with hecklers. The hecklers Ray attracts are some of the vilest, most wicked, most profane people with whom you could ever have occasion to make contact. Ray never backs down. Even more remarkable is that in spite of the torrent of verbal abuse he faces when he preaches, Ray never responds in kind. Ray is firm. Ray is resolute. Ray doesn't let anyone off the hook. Ray will provoke people who walk away just to make them come back and hear the gospel. But Ray is always kind.

Ray can spend 30 minutes being berated by a heckler and, when he steps off the box, walk over to the heckler and shake his hand or give him a hug. More remarkable still is the heckler, who a few moments earlier was spitting mad, will likewise embrace Ray. You cannot watch Ray Comfort preach to the masses and not realize he believes what he says and he loves the people to whom he says it. I wish I could be more like Ray, in this regard.


Ray Behind the Scenes

Many of Ray Comfort's retractors accuse him of being one man when in the public's eye and another man entirely when the world can't see him. Let's face it, who among us can honestly say we never put on airs, from time to time. There is a little, sinful "people-pleaser" in all of us. But I have never met a man whose character and persona is as consistent as Ray Comfort's. What you see is really and literally what you get, with Ray Comfort.

The Ray Comfort that most people don't get to see is the Ray Comfort I love the most--the Ray Comfort with whom I spent more than four years, on a daily basis. Out of respect for Ray and his privacy, I will give very few details. What Ray does in his day-to-day life is ultimately his business, and for me to go into great detail might violate a trust or a confidence. But this I can say.

I spent 20 years of my life reading people. We had a saying in law enforcement. "I know you're lying because your lips are moving." It was never a question of if a person would lie to me. It was simply a question of when. Phony criminals; phony victims; phony witnesses; even a few phony officers: it was easy to see through people. It still is.

One of my concerns about joining the Living Waters team (it's a family, really) was having my Ray Comfort bubble burst. Would I learn that the Ray Comfort I had come to love and respect from afar wasn't the same man up close? So, I watched him. I watched all of the public faces at Living Waters. I'm sure they watched me, too. After all, I was new to the family.

In the more than four years I served with Living Waters, Ray never gave me any reason to question his integrity, his passion, his compassion, his love, his kindness, his truthfulness, his zeal, or his commitment to the gospel mission. On the contrary: what I saw from Ray behind the scenes only served to bolster everything I had seen in his public persona. In fact, as wonderfully endearing as his public persona is, the Ray Comfort within the confines of Living Waters HQ, or his living room, or in a car on the way to open-air preach or to do a film shoot is even more wonderfully endearing.

And Ray is loyal. If you are part of Ray's team, his family, he will do everything and anything he can to support you, encourage you, and correct you with the love of a father or, in my case, an older brother.

Ray Comfort is far from perfect, and he would be the first person to say so. But Ray has been as close to a "Paul" in my life as I've ever had. I am forever in Christ's debt, and Ray's, for the time I was given to spend with Ray.

Yes, Ray is far from perfect. But I've learned so much from Ray. Yes, Ray has taught me much about open-air preaching and evangelism in general. But Ray has also taught me about how a man should love his wife, how a father should love his children, how a leader should lead others, what a man of the Word and a man of prayer really looks like, and what real humility looks like in a genuine man of God.

That's Ray Comfort. That's who Ray Comfort is to me: a mentor, a true friend, a genuine man of God.

I love you, Ray. Thank you, brother.

Evangelism Gear (Part 3): Amplification

In "Part 1" of this series, I discussed video cameras. In "Part 2" of this series, I discussed digital voice recorders. In "Part 3," let's take a look at amplification.

The amplification system I presently use is the Aker MR-AK38. I've used this little amp for about three years, now. For the price, it is the best amp I've ever used. At just $88, the Aker MR-AK38, with its surprising volume and sound quality for such an inexpensive unit, will provide you with all the sound you will need, in most settings.

With inexpensive units like this one, you would expect to have to replace it every year or two. Not with the Aker MR-AK38. Three years into the life of my system and I still get exceptional sound (quality and volume) and battery life. This is a rechargeable amp and it holds its charge well.

The Aker MR-AK38 is a very durable unit. I've traveled extensively with it (across the U.S., England, Scotland, Norway, Canada). It can live in my backpack without a worry of it being damaged. I'm sure the manufacturer would cringe if they found out I was sharing this. I once used my Aker MR-AK38 in a heavy rain. I did what I could to shield it from the rain, but by the time I was done preaching the unit was soaked. I thought for sure it was ruined and I was thankful it would cost less than $100 to replace it. That was two years ago (we get very little rain in SoCal). The unit dried out and has shown no reduction in performance after it took a bath.

There are times, however, when you will need more power. And what open-air preacher doesn't like that! If you want to cover a large area, or if you are open-air preaching in an environment with an excessively large crowd and a cacophony of sound, then the Amplivox Half-Mile Hailer is the system for you.

Folks, the Half-Miler Hailer's intended application is for--you guessed it--hailing boats on the open water. It's an attention getter. Plain and simple. Don't expect concert-quality sound from this beast. But if you want something loud, then the Half-Mile Hailer is your system.

While I don't own one, I've had the opportunity to use this system at the Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl Outreaches, and other large-scale events. It's durable and reliable. It is built to withstand the rigors of boating, so it will be up to the task for anything an open-air preacher can throw at it.

The Half-Mile Hailer runs between $300 and $600. The price range is wide because you can buy a variety of systems (i.e. with a corded microphone, cordless, battery powered, rechargeable).


A Word about Using Amplification

You DON'T need an amplifier to open-air preach.

I think too many open-air preachers have become amplification-dependent. In other words, there are some open-air preachers who have a mindset that has them believing that if they don't use an amp no one will hear them.

Granted, using amplification is very helpful. It saves the preacher's voice. It allows the preacher to better modulate his voice so people don't think he's screaming from start to finish. And in most cases (not all), an amplifier will allow the preacher to be heard over greater distances. But for thousands of years, open-air preachers heralded the law and the gospel without the aid of electronic amplification.

Remember, God is sovereign.

Everyone God wants to hear an open-air preacher, on any given day, will hear him. Whether the preacher has a Whitefield-like voice or can barely be heard at the other end of his own home, the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation, will be heard.

And keep in mind, the day is coming when governing authorities will clamp-down on, restrict, or outlaw the public proclamation of the gospel. The elimination of the use of amplification in public places could be one of the first steps in such anti-gospel efforts. So, open-air preacher, what will you do? If the government outlaws preaching with amplification, are you going to sit in your house, staring out the window, pouting about days gone by? I hope not!

Use amplification when and where you can, but also take the time to preach without it. Learn how to use the instrument God has given you, without the aid of mechanical devices.

Oh. One more thing. Don't be one of those open-air preachers that is on the streets more concerned about fighting for your rights than for lost souls. If an officer asks (or tells) you to shutdown your amplification, comply. Better to stay on the street preaching without amplification than to find yourself in the back seat of a patrol care because you had to try to win an argument with an officer.

For more information regarding how to deal with law enforcement and security, read this article.

In "Part 4" of this article, we will take a look at gospel literature.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How Can I Pray for You?

This picture was taken several years ago at a local park. While I cannot remember the young man's name, I remember the conversation. I saw him sitting on the bench, reading his Bible. I engaged him in conversation and learned that he was struggling. He grew up in church, but he knew he wasn't right with God. He was searching the Scriptures for answers. I shared the gospel with him and he made a profession of faith in Christ. Before I left him, I prayed for him.

Recently, I began asking people on Facebook and Twitter how I can pray for them. The response has been wonderful--so wonderful that it is already becoming difficult to gather all of the prayer requests, since I am collecting the prayer request from multiple online locations.

So, in an effort to collect all of the prayer requests in one place, I'm writing this post.

If I can petition the Lord on your behalf, through prayer, simply share your prayer request by leaving a comment on this post. If the prayer request is too personal to share publicly, please email me at Tony@crossencountersmin.com.

How can I pray for you?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Why I Number Myself Among "The 15"

Pastor Tom Chantry of Christ Reformed Baptist Church (Milwaukee) summed it up well.
"'The 15' is not akin to a silly boycott of a secular company; it is an uprising of serious churchmen calling for ecclesiastical action."
Twitter has been all-a-buzz the last couple of days over the hashtag #The15. It all started when a leader in American Evangelicalism (a subject about which I have written at length), came to the defense of John Piper, after Christians had the audacity to grimace and question what seemed to be a pro-Roman Catholic tweet by the well-known and much beloved pastor. In doing so, Stetzer snarked on Twitter:


Stetzer followed up his shot against the "same 15 Calvinists" with this, this, this, and this.

Well, Stetzer's rant led to JD Hall to post the first-ever #The15 Tweet:


Hall soon followed the inaugural tweet with an article titled, "Who are #the15," on the Pulpit and Pen blog. Please read Hall's article for the best explanation, for the original intent of #The15.

Why I Number Myself Among #The15


The above picture is of a 16th century engraving by Philips Galle titled, "Samson Destroying the Temple of the Philistines." For the record, the "15" on Samson's chest is my personal touch. According to the biblical record, there is no evidence that Samson ever wore a jersey with the number 15 on the front.

As I thought of the tragic yet redemptive end of Samson's life (Judges 16:25-30), I thought of what #The15 represents (cue the melodramatic music). I see the Philistine temple the same way I see American Evangelicalism. Both are godless structures. I see Samson the same way I see the Bride of Christ. As Samson stood within the Philistine temple determined to bring it to the ground, within the godless system of American Evangelicalism is the Bride of Christ, fighting for the truth of God's Word, the fidelity of the gospel, and the purity of the Church.

One day (and I hope it is soon) Jesus Christ will use His Bride, the Church, to bring down, to utterly destroy, the temple of quasi-Christianity commonly referred to as American Evangelicalism. Oh, it won't be violent. It won't be a hostile takeover. American Evangelicalism will simply burn up like every other piece of chaff. The tare that is American Evangelicalism will be uprooted, without harming the wheat (God's people).

And how will God use His Bride to accomplish the destruction of American Evangelicalism?

Persecution.

No, it won't be the persecution of American Evangelicals at the hands of true Christians. It will be the other way around. The Bride of Christ will, I believe, soon be persecuted by those who would number themselves among the American Evangelical ranks before they would ever dream of counting the cost of following Christ. It won't be long (again this is simply my belief; I don't even play a prophet on television) before American Evangelicals, because of their love of the world and the things of the world, because of their desire to be loved by the world and the people of godless religions and political systems, will begin to side with the popes, pundits, and politicians of the world against the Bride of Christ.

It will be the persecution of the true saints of God, which will include the blood of martyrs, at the hands of people (American Evangelicals) who have created a Jesus in their imagination--a socially relevant, all-inclusive, gentlemanly, demonic Jesus--that will be used of God to separate the tares from the wheat, to separate the Bride of Christ from American Evangelicalism.

While American Evangelicalism is awash with everything God hates--from abortion to divorce, to homosexuality, to sexual predator pastors, to pluralism, to greed, to unbiblical tolerance, to false prophets and teachers, and so on--the Bride of Christ that finds herself within this depraved and debaucherous system is beautiful. While yet imperfect, she is set apart to God, for the Son, by the Holy Spirit. And the Bridegroom will one-day rescue His Bride from this fallen world and the fallen religious system known as American Evangelicalism.

I number myself among #The15 because I see American Evangelicalism (not all evangelicals) as an enemy of Christ. I see American Evangelicalism as a tool of Satan to fill Hell with Matthew 7:21-23 false converts. I see American Evangelicalism as a demonic system that gives people what they want, a wide gate into what they think is heaven. Yet all-the-while they are strolling on an easy religious path that leads to destruction.

I number myself among #The15 because I don't want people to go to hell while thinking they are on the fast track to heaven. There is no group of people for whom I fear, worry, and weep more than false converts--people who think they will stand before Christ and say, "Lord! Lord!" They will say it only to hear Jesus say in response, "Depart from me."

Why do I number myself among #The15? I do so because I love Jesus, His Church, and the lost more than any religious system that blasphemes the first, sullies the second, and damns the third.

Evangelism Gear (Part 2): Voice Recorders

In "Part 1" of this series, I elaborated on what kind of video equipment I have and made a recommendation for a video camera suitable for street evangelism use. In "Part 2," I will discuss two digital voice recorders I use in my evangelism efforts.

Voice Recorders

When I served as a field training officer for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, I required all of my trainees to carry a voice recorder. "Make sure your gun is clean, loaded, and ready to go. And make sure you have fresh tape (back in the days before digital media) and batteries in your voice recorder." I told every trainee.

I personally know law enforcement professionals whose careers were literally saved because they had a voice recording of an incident or conversation with a person. On more than one occasion, I avoided possible discipline from false allegations because I had a voice recording of my contact with a person. Interviews with witnesses and confessions from suspects captured in a voice recording was, at times, the difference between winning and losing a case.

Having a voice recorder is as essential when engaged in street evangelism as it was for me when I worked the streets as a deputy sheriff. Whether on a college campus, a street corner, in front of an abortion clinic, or at a train station, I try to always have a voice recorder (sometimes two) with me.

Legal Considerations

Before I continue, it is important to note that prior to recording conversations in public places, check the laws in your state (or country) regarding the recording of conversations. Many states, like my state (California), have what is commonly referred to as a "one party consent law" for the recording of conversations in a public place.

By statute in most states, "a public place," for the purpose of making a voice recording, is any place where a person has no expectation of privacy (i.e. coffee shops, stores, malls, sidewalks, parks, etc.). Places like inside a person's car or home, or in a closed room, are seen as places where people have an expectation of privacy. A good rule of thumb is that any place where people congregate, where an uninvolved (or uninvited) third party can overhear a conversation or can approach and listen to a conversation, is a place where a person likely has no expectation of privacy.

A "one party consent law," in most cases, requires that only one person involved in a conversation, when and where there is no expectation of privacy, needs to be aware that a recording is being made. And the only person aware that need be aware a recording is being made can be the person making the recording. In circumstances that fall within the guidelines of a "one party consent law," the person making the recording is not obligated to tell the other person (or people) involved in the conversation that a recording is being made.

Again, it is imperative that you check the laws in your state (or country) regarding the recording of conversations.

Makes and Models

I've used several different voice recorders over the years. One that I found very reliable, and continued to work great after it was run over by a car in Norway, is the Olympus DM-620. This sturdy unit produces great sound quality and has a nice internal microphone.

Today, I use both a high-end and a low-end digital recorder. On the high end ($210-$249), I use the Sony ICD-SX1000. This is a professional-grade digital recorder, with superior recording capability and sound quality. On the lower end ($39-$49), I use the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip. The newer models have more bells and whistles than the model I have. For an inexpensive and small unit, it produces surprisingly good sound. This little unit is excellent for one-to-one conversations when you don't want anyone to know you are recording. It is also suitable for open-air preaching applications.

In "Part 3" of this series, we'll take a look at amplification systems.

Evangelism Gear (Part 1): Video Cameras

I am frequently asked about the various types of gear I use when engaged in evangelism. People want to know what kind of cameras (still and video), voice recorders, amplifiers, gospel tracts, and bibles I use when I hit the streets. It seems lately the questions have been coming more frequently. So, I think now is a good time to write another article about my evangelism gear.

Since I'm going to try to add more detail than in previous articles of this kind, I'm going to divide this article into several parts. "Part 1" will cover video cameras.

Video Cameras

I've used several different video cameras throughout the years. I currently own two very good, HD video cameras (a Sony HDR-PJ710V, and a Canon Vixia HF 710A). Both were gifts to the ministry.

Both cameras are wonderful for open-air preaching, one-to-one conversations, and recording pulpit sermons. However, cameras like these are best used if you are either going to employ a tripod in a location where you can walk away from the camera (i.e. inside a church, meeting room, or studio), or in outdoor situations where you can have a person hold the camera or stand next to the tripod. I try to avoid the latter because I don't want to relegate someone to the position of "camera man" who is on the streets with me to do evangelism.

Since I am alone most of the time when I'm engaged in street evangelism, a hands-free camera is best suited for my needs. This summer, I purchased and tried a Taser Axon Body Camera. This camera was developed for law enforcement use, and I can see where it serves that purpose very well. However, while the sound and picture quality is suitable for a law enforcement application, it is sub-par for evangelism purposes.

I film my evangelism for three reasons: to enhance my personal safety and accountability; to edify and train the Body of Christ; to proclaim the gospel on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. This kind of video production demands high quality videos, especially when someone as technically inept as I am is behind the camera. People simply won't watch videos with a grainy picture and poor sound quality. The video content might be fantastic, but if the video is painful to the eyes and ears of the average viewer, no one is going to watch it.

So, my recommendation is to use a camera I do not yet own--the GoPro Hero4 (Silver). When the Lord provides the funds, I plan to purchase one.

I've spoken to people who own this camera or who are professional videographers who are very familiar with it. The camera records in HD and produces a high quality image, even in lower light situations. The sound quality is also good. The camera is sturdy. It is designed for sports and other high impact activities, which makes it a good camera for street evangelism (where anything can happen).

Those with whom I have spoken about the camera recommend the Silver over the Black model, which is $100 more expensive. While the Black records in blistering fast 4K, it lacks a view screen, which is important for novice and recreational users. The Silver (retails at $399) records in 1080p60 and 720p120 HD video, which is plenty of quality for street evangelism and YouTube purposes.

Both Hero4 models include WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, which allows for live streaming.

While all GoPro cameras are built to take more of a beating than your standard video camera, spending another $50 on a Skeleton Housing unit is recommended.

In "Part 2," I will talk about the voice recorders I recommend.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Just" a Four-Letter Word

"I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" Romans 1:14-17).

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. Such power is given to nothing else in the Word of God. Love, hope, faith, kindness, service, helps, compassion, friendship, understanding, acceptance, trust, non-judgment, patience, community, relevance, church, baptism, communion, support, counseling (good, bad, or ugly), healing, prophecy, knowledge, gold dust or neo-necromancy, discipleship: none of these emotions, none of these actions, none of these nouns, adjectives, or verbs is the power of God for salvation. The gospel and the gospel alone is given that magnificent designation.

You, my Christian friend, are not the power of God for salvation. If you think God needs you to save souls, get over yourself and move on. If you think God needs your personality, abilities, charisma, care, kindness, ability to establish no-strings-attached, non-judgmental relationships to win people to Christ, again, get over yourself. Repent of your arrogance and pride, and move on.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Now, does God use His people (Christians) to communicate His powerful gospel to call sinner's to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Of course. The gospel is a communicated message, either in writing or verbally. You, my Christian friend, are not the gospel. A spiritually blind (1 Corinthians 2:14), spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3), hater of God (Romans 1:32; 3:10-18) cannot see Jesus in you. Without the written or verbal proclamation of the gospel, you don't look any different to an unsaved person than a nice Roman Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Jehovah's Witness, or professed atheist.

Be encouraged! The salvation of souls is not contingent upon your personality or abilities!

The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Like Paul, as a follower of Jesus Christ you are under obligation to all kinds of people to proclaim the gospel. The Great Commission to make disciples as one goes about the daily life-work of gospel proclamation is a command for every Christian. Some will do that by distributing gospel tracts. Some will engage people in gospel conversation--friends, family members, co-workers, fellow students, total strangers, or any group I failed to mention. Some will thunder the gospel to the masses through open-air preaching. Some will do so from their sick beds via the computer. Some will combine two or more of the before-mentioned gospel vehicles, or communicate the gospel (again, in written or verbal form) in ways I have not considered.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Here's the problem. Segments of American Evangelicalism have marginalized, even vilified the simple, straightforward, biblical proclamation of the gospel. Others within American Evangelicalism's ranks have established evangelistic pyramids with modes like "friendship evangelism" or open-air preaching as the pinnacles of evangelistic endeavor. As a result, many Christians negatively apply the word "just" to their evangelistic efforts.

"I just hand out tracts."

"I just mail tracts back to banks who send me credit card applications. They are kind enough to provide a postage-paid envelope so I can do it."

"I just engage in one-to-one conversations."

"I just share the gospel online. Because of my medical condition, I don't get out of the house much, so this is the best I can do."

I hear this kind of talk from Christians all the time. They make statements like the ones above as if they are confessing a sin. They make their confession with a forlorn tone in their voices, with their heads cast down. I begin to encourage them by first rebuking them.

"'Just' is a four-letter word you should never use when talking about your evangelism efforts. Knock it off!"

To use the word "just" in a minimalistic, apologetic, embarrassed way is to deny the true power of evangelism--the gospel. To say you "just" hand out tracts is to say that the mode you've chosen to communicate the gospel somehow strips the gospel of its power. If the gospel is the power of God for salvation (and it is) then any manner in which you choose to communicate the gospel is empowered not by the mode or methodology, but by the content of the message--the gospel.

Since God is sovereign; since salvation is the monergistic work of Almighty God; since gospel proclamation is the manner God has chosen for drawing to Himself those He has chosen and regenerated, then the power (all of it) lies in the gospel itself.

If you distributed gospel tracts, stop saying you're "just" distributing gospel tracts. If you engage people in conversation, stop saying you're "just" engaging people in conversation. And so on. Think biblically about your evangelism efforts. Distribute every gospel tract, whether into people's hand or on the windows of their cars, with Romans 1:14-17 in mind (with emphasis on verse 16). Enter every conversation the same way. Climb atop a box or park bench to herald the gospel motivated by the same, great truth.

And stop using "just," that four-letter word, when talking about your evangelism efforts. The gospel, the power of God for salvation, deserves better.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mall Evangelism: A Christmas Present for Grandpa

I spent a few hours at the Valencia Town Center this afternoon manning an evangelism table. I added a few more accoutrements to the table in an effort to make it a little more visually appealing.

Having cast my lines into the water, it didn't take long before the fish started biting.

The first two tracts I distributed went to a couple of boys. They looked like they were 10-12 years old. One of the boys was carrying a Titled Kilt waitress calendar. Titled Kilt is one of those restaurants men go to for big screen televisions and the half-naked waitresses. The restaurants billboards and bus stop advertisements are of the kind to which Christians should avert their eyes.

Some Christians feel it's inappropriate to give a child a gospel tract, which refers to the 7th Commandment (adultery). I've been told of situations in which unsaved parents, after reading a tract their child has received, have angrily returned the tract, incensed that their child was exposed to the words "lust" and/or "adultery." While I'm sure it's not always the case, but I would not be surprised if some of these offended parents are the same parents who drop their children off for hours of unsupervised fun at the mall where their sons can buy inappropriate calendars.

Not far from today's table location was a watch and jewelry repair kiosk. A noticed that a young man working the kiosk was sporting a United States Marine Corps (USMC) sweatshirt. I always keep some "Thank You" tracts in my wallet for just such an occasion. I walked over to the kiosk, extended my hand to the young man, and thank him for his service. He smiled and said, "Thank you, sir. I appreciate that." I gave him the tract and headed back to my table. When I sat down, I looked his way to see him attentively reading the tract.

I gave away six bibles today. Two were to individuals, including one to the manager of the mall's Hickory Farms outlet. The other four went to one family. A mom with her three children (ages 8-13) in tow approached the table. I had a sign up today to make sure people knew the bibles were free for the taking. Mom told one of her daughters and her son to take one. The kids then asked mom if they could take one for their dad and one for their grandpa to give to them as Christmas presents. A smile brightened mom's face and she gave her hearty approval.

I think I was probably smiling ear-to-ear, too, at the thought of bibles leaving my table to be given as Christmas presents next week.

I was further blessed today as a few Christians, at different times, stopped at the table to thank me for being at the mall.

It was another good afternoon at the mall.