Many of you may already know I've been involved in an evangelism training ministry for the past several months. The ministry is called Evangelize Today and the essential emphasis is really pretty simple - find time to be still before the Lord and marinate your heart in the Gospel, engage with people by asking them a set of questions, listen to "hear" what they say rather than just listening to respond, shepherd and care for the person before you attempt to "convert" them, and then look for relationships where you can easily give a Gospel proposal. It's really not rocket science but it's so much more difficult than it sounds - none of us have time to be still; as Christians we're not trained to listen to "hear" because we know the real need is for unbelievers need to hear us; we're more interested in results than relationships. It's been quite an eye-opening experience so far and thank you so much to the many who have partnered with me both financially and in prayer. Let me share what your partnership in this ministry is about to produce!
To understand this you need to know that this ministry encourages you to find a place where non-Christians gather. The problem here in the Bible belt is two-fold ... first, hardly anyone identifies as a non-Christian and second, the primary place where non-Christians gather is in church buildings! So at first I struggled with where to do this type thing. I have a long-time presence at Guadalajara Restaurant so I have been able to interview and build a relationship with most of their staff, some of whom I have had the privilege of speaking to about Christ. But the pool of unbelievers needed to expand and my trainer kept urging me to consider various options. The ballpark seemed like a good option but the thought of an older guy like me hanging around a children's park just didn't sound right. Of course, everybody goes to WalMart but how much shopping do I need to do? As we kept exploring options I sort of jokingly mentioned the Moody Blue Bar as the far end of the spectrum. The problem was that my trainer didn't take it as a joke ... he thought it was a great idea! I strongly resisted but he kept pushing. I tried to argue - "I'm not familiar with how bar culture operates!" (he reminded me I'm a grown man and could figure it out) "What about my reputation, what will people think?" (that argument didn't get very far) "That place is full of sinners!" (that only strengthened his argument) Well, I finally agreed to give it a shot and asked a friend to go with me for the first visit. We decided a Thursday night was the best - not the rowdier weekend folks but still a good crowd since it's open mic night every Thursday. It wasn't too scary so I decided to go back a second week, this time by myself. Lo and behold, I had folks coming up and welcoming me back - even the bar owner. I was being warmly embraced by people there even though they knew I was an ordained pastor. Surreal might best describe this experience!
After a handful of weeks the featured weekly Thursday night musician was in a serious automobile accident and the people at the bar were deeply concerned for him. So they asked me on a number of occasions to stand before the bar crowd and lead them in prayer for their dear friend. Nobody was offended by this ... in fact, many would come and hug me afterwards. Again ... surreal.
Anyway, to make a long story short, the bar has asked me to start a Sunday night something there ... I say "something" because I don't know what shape it will take. Maybe it'll be a Bible study, or small group, or discussion, or maybe even a worship service - I really have no idea. Our first meeting is this Sunday 21 May at 5:00 pm to gather with those who are interested and see what is the need and desire. Please pray with me for this meeting and for whatever may result from it. The opportunities for ministry are just being rolled out on a red carpet for me and I need to faithful in my response.
Who are the people I'll be meeting with this Sunday? Actually, I don't know specifically who will be coming though have been told that quite a number are interested. But here are the type folks I've had the opportunity to build relationships with so far - the man who's struggling after his wife has committed adultery and is leaving him; the young man living with his girlfriend and who is uncomfortable going to church because he knows he'll never measure up; the guy who is asking the ultimate questions of "why death and poverty?"; the granddad who is spending a lot of time helping raise a granddaughter because his own daughter is involved with a drug dealer; the guy who's recently been hospitalized to get his mental illness medicines regulated; the young man who's parents recently got divorced; the couple who have both been previously divorced who say they'll never go back to church because they feel they've been blackballed; etc. Each of these folks are image bearers of God and I've been able to see the beauty of that shine through even in the midst of their junk.
This is what your partnership with me is about to get involved with! So I'm in serious need of your prayers - this is a messy and wild adventure where I truly need God's abundant grace. And to be clear, I'm really not asking for CPC folks to join me at the Moody Blue Bar - for many it would be very uncomfortable. Also, I don't want people there to think CPC is taking on the bar as a "project" for ministry. I'm just asking you to pray and ask the Lord to pour out His abundant grace. I'll let you know what happens after this Sunday night's meeting!
Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest - John 4:35