Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Christ Fellowship Bible Church, St. Louis, MO
I returned home early yesterday evening from a five-day trip to St. Louis, MO. The purpose of the trip was to serve pastor Geoff Kirkland and the Christ Fellowship Bible Church family by joining them in street evangelism and providing teaching regarding the same. Pastor Geoff Kirkland is a graduate of both The Master's Seminary and the Grace Advance training program. My time in St. Louis was filled with ministry opportunities, wonderful fellowship, and amazing hospitality from start to finish.
I was picked up at the airport Thursday afternoon by Pastor Geoff and my good friends, Robert Gray and Mike Stockwell. We hit the ground running. Our first stop was Barnes-Jewish Hospital, west of downtown St. Louis. Barnes-Jewish is ranked the #1 hospital in all of St. Louis. We were joined by a few other members of the church when we arrived. We set up near a busy pedestrian thoroughfare between the hospital and the Central West End Metrolink Station. There we preached the gospel in the open-air and distributed gospel tracts.
Friday began with a wonderful time of fellowship, with more than a dozen men from Christ Fellowship Bible Church. I was given the privilege to lead the time of study of God's Word by looking at a biblical understanding of leadership and evangelism in church ministry, through the lens of Paul's farewell address to the elders of the Church at Ephesus, which is found at the end of Acts 20. My time of Q&A with the men was very profitable and encouraging, and it spilled over into my conversation with those who joined us for breakfast.
A group of us then traveled to Jefferson County Community College where we heralded the gospel for more than three hours, facing considerable opposition as we did so. We set up outside the school's student center (see SC on map). Many students, as well as faculty members, security officers and Jefferson County deputy sheriffs, heard the proclamation of the law and the gospel. Sadly (and typically) the angriest hecklers on the campus were professing Christians, including a "youth pastor."
We ended the day by spending a couple hours preaching outside the Scottrade Center, home of the St. Louis Blues hockey team. We preached to those who were entering the arena for the evening's game. Again, many people heard the gospel and/or received gospel tracts.
Saturday was a very full day. The day began with a trip to Granite City, IL, to preach at the Hope Clinic for Women, the Midwest's largest late-term abortion provider.
There we teamed up with Daniel and Angela Michael of Small Victories Ministries.
From Daniel and Angela we learned that the abortionist at Hope Clinic is allegedly a Hindu who lies to the women, who's children he murders, by telling them their murdered babies will be reincarnated. The abortionist and abortuary workers allegedly lie to the women by trying to convince them they are having a miscarriage and therefore the abortion of their child is necessary. This abortuary has a history of botched abortions.
More than a dozen of us spent more than three hours outside the abortuary as dozens of women came to the death mill to murder their babies. We pleaded with the mothers and fathers and, in some cases, grandmothers. We preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. We held signs warning passerbys that babies were being murdered there.
Sadly, a large contingent of Roman Catholics were at the abortuary, too. They set up a large altar to Mary and vainly and repetitiously droned "Hail Marry full of grace..." They might as well have been chanting "Hail Satan." One man wore an 18" x 24" picture of Mary around his neck like a necklace.
We did see one young lady leave the abortuary without having an abortion. We praised God for that.
Our next stop was Busch Stadium and Game 3 of the 2013 World Series.
Nine of us formed two groups with each group taking a position on a street corner, at opposite ends of the stadium. From these positions we distributed gospel tracts and preached the gospel for the two hours leading up to the game. One dear sister in Christ distributed more than 800 tracts in just 90 minutes. Thousands of people heard and/or received the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The day ended with an evening of evangelism training and encouragement with the Christ Fellowship Bible Church family. Between two sessions, What Is the Biblical Gospel? and What Is Biblical Evangelism?, I preached for almost four hours.
Sunday morning began with a time of discipleship with the men of Christ Fellowship Bible Church who are training to be elders. I focused our time in the Word on Paul's commands to Timothy to flee from sin, pursue Christ-likeness, and fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
I spent a quiet afternoon with the Kirkland Family. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch prepared by Elizabeth Kirkland (this was one of those trips during which I think I gained weight because of the superiority of the cooking). After lunch the "grandpa fix" I had experienced every day with the Kirkland children (Hezekiah, Tikvah, and Emunah) came to a wonderful crescendo as we took the kids for a time of play and hiking at a local park. How wonderfully, beautifully relaxing and joyous a time it was!
Sunday late afternoon and evening I was given the distinct honor and privilege to stand again in my friend, Pastor Geoff Kirkland's, pulpit. I preached two sermons: A Life Worthy of the Gospel and American Evangelicalism: Has it Become a Den of Robbers.
Even though my second sermon was almost two hours in length, the church family enjoyed a couple more hours of wonderful fellowship as we were all blessed to partake in the fruits of the church's first Chili Cook-Off. It was so very encouraging to spend time with a healthy (albeit imperfect) church family. My heart and soul was greatly ministered to.
My time in St. Louis ended as it had started, with a couple hours of preaching and tract distribution outside the Jewish-Barnes Hospital and Central West End Metrolink Station. Something humorously providential happened while we were at the location.
Pastor Geoff was first to preach. As he has done for more than a year-and-a-half, he stood just beyond the walkway, which is considered the hospital's private property, on the curb line at the end of a cul de sac. Where he stood is public property. Shortly after Pastor Geoff began to preach, a friendly, bike-riding security officer approached him and said, "I love the Word, too, but you can't preach there."
Pastor Geoff tried to explain to the young security officer that where he was standing is where he has stood for a long time, with no security or police officers taking issue with it. The security officer radioed his supervisor. When all was said and done, the security officer asked us to move to the metrolink platform, which is also considered private property. Pastor Geoff had previously been asked not to preach or distribute tracts on metrolink property by metroink security guards.
We complied and moved to the metrolink platform. After distributing hundreds of gospel tracts a black, female security guard exited the elevator, immediately seeing me and receiving a gospel tract.
"Have a good day." I said as I handed her the tract.
"What this? What are you doing?"
"It's a gospel tract."
"Oh, you can't do that here."
"Well, another security guard on a bicycle asked us to move onto metrolink property."
"Of course he did. That's their property (pointing to the walkway immediately adjacent to the metrolink platform). This is metrolink property. Well, I'm going to have to check to see what I should do here."
Before she could transmit on the radio, she rubbed her stomach and said. "My stomach doesn't feel good. I need to get something to eat."
"Can I buy you breakfast?" I asked.
With a quizzical look, she asked, "Are you serious?"
"Sure! I know there's a place close by. Let's get you something to eat."
"Well, all right, then!"
As we walked to a nearby student center cafe, she asked me, "Can I have that card, again?" She had given back to me the gospel tract I had given her when she stepped out of the elevator.
"Sure! Here ya go!"
We walked into the cafe. The security officer picked what she wanted for breakfast. After the purchase was made, she said she was going to sit down and eat.
"Thank you very much." She said.
"Oh, you're welcome. My friends and I will be back at the station if you learn anything about where we should stand."
I walked back to the metrolink platform with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I couldn't help to laugh at the providence of God in my encounter with the security officer.
Some time later, the same security guard approached me as she made her way down to the train tracks.
"I don't actually work up here on the platform. I'm assigned to the trains. You have a good day."
"Thank you. You, too."
And many more people received gospel tracts as they entered and exited the metrolink platform.
A Change of Vision
Cross Encounters Ministries has existed for just 15 months. But, oh, what an amazingly busy and productive 15 months it has been!
In addition to many, many opportunities to proclaim the gospel around the world this year (nine states in addition to California and two foreign countries), the last 15 months have given me the opportunity to try to implement the ministry vision and goals I had envisioned more than a year ago. Some aspects of the ministry look just as I suspected they would. Others have not. In the latter category, the most significant area of ministry that did not take root was "The Timothy Project."
The idea behind "The Timothy Project" was to gather 3-5 men in a given area and take them through a week of intensive open-air preaching training and discipleship. Over the last 15 months, only one church expressed any real interest in sponsoring and participating in The Timothy Project. Unfortunately, work schedules and ministry responsibilities resulted in the cancellation of the first and what would be the last "Timothy Project."
At first, I was a bit discouraged, but the Lord allowed me to see that He was working to build a different kind of discipleship arm of my ministry. And this year's trips to Portland (OR) and St. Louis (MO) have confirmed in my heart and mind how He wants me to interact with local churches around the world. The strategy is a simple one, and I believe a biblical one.
Instead of plucking a few men from different churches to disciple them apart from their churches and church leaders, I will seek to come alongside church pastors and their congregations--serving under the authority and at the pleasure of the elders of the host church. At the direction of the church's pastor/elders, I will serve the church as an evangelist, assisting the pastor/elders in the edification and equipping of the congregation in various forms of biblical evangelism.
The times of ministry pastors Geoff Kirkland (St. Louis, MO) and Chuck O'Neal (Beaverton, OR) put together for me will serve as the model for all future invitational trips to minister to churches. Here's another snapshot of my recent trip to Christ Fellowship Bible Church, in St. Louis, MO.
1. Provided general discipleship training for the men of the church
2. Provide elder-specific training for prospective elders in the church
3. Taught the congregation biblical evangelism principles from the pulpit
4. Affirmed the pastor's/elders' call to and implementation of church-wide biblical evangelism from the pulpit
5. Assist the church in abortion clinic ministry
6. Assist the church in street evangelism ministry (including, but not limited to open-air preaching)
7. Remain available to the church by phone, email, and return trips to serve the church in any way I can.
While the extent to which I will provide discipleship and evangelism training to churches will vary from church to church, based on the individual church's specific needs, the above general framework should be implementable in any church that extends an invitation to me to come and help them.
I'm very excited about the clarity in vision the Lord appears to be giving me, and I look forward to assisting churches in this way for as long as the Lord allows. Please join me in praying to that end.