This October saw our little team travel from various corners of the earth to meet in Bristol, a city which has seen and heard varying degrees of the gospel over the centuries.
Each morning before we left for a day’s outreach, James gave us a daily Bible study, which Lord willing, will be uploaded in November.
During our stay, this was brought to mind several times. For instance, the very first day, our third preaching spot found us right in front of John Wesley’s first meeting room, and another day we recalled that Bristol was the city where George Muller, friend of Hudson Taylor, had his famous faith-based orphan work in the 1800s. (We would later visit the Muller museum, which sadly seems to be now run by secular/ecumenical humanists.)
A fresh look at the city in 2017 shows that the gospel is now sadly missing in most corners, misunderstood in many others and absolutely despised in others. We met many religious people: charismatics and Pentecostals (some of whom were openly ecumenical and saw nothing wrong with that), several who believed in baptismal regeneration (“baptism saves”), at least one man who was studying with the JWs, another of “black Hebrew” persuasion, a number of people involved in paganism, witchcraft or atheism, and plenty of people who claimed to be Christians. Some of these apparently don’t bother to base their beliefs on the Bible, but some seemed truly born again and we were blessed to have met them.
Our first day was spent in Bristol city centre. James and Patrick brought the megaphone, and preached in a couple of spots. During the lunch hour, there were plenty of people out, as the weather was warm and sunny. We are sure that many saw the banner and heard some words of his preaching. Certainly, there was enough said for them to be convicted of sin and righteousness by the Holy Spirit, if they so choose.
On that first day, brother Patrick spoke with two law students who had seen our Hebrews 13:8 banner “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” and took a tract. These two knew little about the Bible, but more about religion and asked a few questions about Mary and such stuff, but Patrick encouraged them not to go down the religion route or be corrupted by Satan’s wicked ways, but rather to repent and be born again. Perhaps they will find themselves keen to read the Scriptures and find it is a living book that will lead them to salvation. They would not be the first to read it for its literary value or try to debunk it, but do an about-turn and find themselves believing on the Saviour.
Brother Enrique spoke at length with four young men who claimed to be born again but spoke quite a lot about the power of the Holy Spirit and their school of prayer, and the unity they have with all the churches in Bristol. It’s always a bit disturbing when people explain their gospel in terms of the Holy Spirit and neglect to mention the life, work, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and these gentlemen, although nice, did seem to have a little of that approach. They spoke of “all the boring little denominational differences” and said that Protestants and Catholics were now coming together. Sister Helen joined the conversation and interjected that Catholicism defines grace as something you earn from good works and the sacraments and that the pope recently claimed that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ outside of ‘Mother Church’ is dangerous, also mentioning how it is impossible to get along with anyone who follows that kind of system, what did they think about that? Many of the topics addressed seemed to indicate that these people were involved in dominionist-type theology (that there will be soon revival and the Lord will retake the earth). Of course, our alarm bells go off, but we politely attempt to dig a little more, without spending undue amounts of time with people who consider themselves to be already well-versed in Bible topics and not too teachable. Our best hope is that they take a good hard look at the Scriptures and perhaps visit ETC’s YouTube channel for a more detailed Bible study than they are used to, to turn their focus from “signs and miracles” to the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus. Certainly, it was clear that they were surprised to find someone attempting to gently challenge them in some of their preconceived ideas about how the Lord is working in the here and now!
There was also a nice chat with a young man who admitted he was studying with the JWs and was obviously very interested in understanding the Scriptures. To his credit, he said that although he was studying with them, he wished to keep an open mind and be convinced by the Bible itself. He seems to be reading the King James Bible and not the JW perversion, and he is concerned about his soul but is also being drawn by the kindness and interest he finds in the JW group. James and Helen encouraged him to continue reading the Scriptures and to reject the JW twists and turns on the Scriptures. James also offered to write him if he takes the time to watch some of his verse-by-verse studies and has further questions. It’s extremely rare that a person seen in street work ever writes, but you never know!
On the second day, we drove to Bath, a very pretty city slightly southeast from Bristol. We arrived around lunch time, and there were many who accepted a tract and many who did not. Brother James preached for some time, and then we walked toward a different section of town, where some buskers and dancers were entertaining the crowds. Although he preached for a few minutes, the area was far too noisy to make our mark, so our little group, with banner held high, proceeded to stroll slowly upward. James saw Bath Abbey, a building of Late Medieval-Perpendicular Gothic style toward the right, and decided to enter the square occupied by several buskers, long queues of visitors and other assorted people. James spoke loudly against such a religious system and against its fees for entry, proclaiming that salvation through Jesus Christ is a free gift. It wasn’t too long, however, before the manager came out and conspicuously challenged him, saying the fees were “donations” and “are you blind or something”? (of course, we know “no donation, no entry”). James stood his ground and kept preaching and in fact, the whole scene drew more attention than it would have otherwise. (A Google search on the building history found this anonymous review: “inside isn’t so great, staff very pushy in trying to get money from us”. So, James really wasn’t so over the top, was he?) Be sure to watch the video!!!!
On Saturday, brother Martin came to spend some hours with our outreach in Bristol city centre. He gave out many tracts, speaking to people in his usual winsome and fervent way, and preaching a short time at the end of the day. He did a good job standing his ground when approached by a man who wished to convince him to come under the law and the Old Testament and said we had ‘a false gospel’.
Brother Patrick was approached by one irate man who pointed to the “Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish” banner and said, “That’s negative thinking and won’t work, I work in sales and it’s always much better to have a positive message.” Patrick answered, “But those are the words of the Lord Jesus!” to which he replied, “Don’t be rude, I’m talking”. Patrick offered to “talk later, come back later and we’ll have a quiet talk on a bench”, but he replied, “I’m not talking with you” and left. Now, it’s not quite true even in advertising, as multiple messages are meant to strike absolute terror in our hearts about computer trojans and viruses, about traffic accidents, hurricanes, earthquakes, thieves and many other tragic events. But this man obviously wished to have the last (negative!) word, leaving us to ruminate that mankind’s heart is hardened and that rejection is the usual response to salvation messages, whether positive or negative.
After the live Sunday morning service, we returned to Bristol city centre where James briefly spoke with a homeless man about God not being just love, love, love, but holy, holy, holy! Many tracts were given out, but the crowds were thinner and reception was slower.
On Monday, we drove to famous Glastonbury where the weather was gloomy, and so was the atmosphere in the town. It was astonishing how much English legends and mythology, new age practices, and paganism/witchcraft permeated the town. It felt like a scene out of some kind of horror film (The Wicker Man movie certainly comes to mind), and there were clearly many there who have fallen for such dark arts. Buddhas, dreamcatchers, “Magik” paraphernalia, Halloween gear, and stores with pagan and bewitching names abounded. We set up the banner and James began to preach a bit farther down from Glastonbury Abbey, rumoured to be the oldest Christian spot in England (certainly, there is nothing Christian about this town anymore, if there ever was), but surprise, surprise! A delivery truck positioned itself immediately in front of the banner and preaching, such that it was difficult to see or hear James’s efforts on the other side. Some tracts were given across the street, but there were many rejections. Still, one gentleman grabbed some tea from a cafe and sat at an outside table, clearly interested in speaking. He said he was Gnostic and believed we all had “the Christ” and that Jesus was simply another man who had realized it. Many verses were brought to his attention, but he seemed to be on another wavelength (literally!). Still, he said perhaps he really should break out his Bible once again.
One elderly gentleman sitting at the bus stop looked and listened intently to the preaching. Maybe we were sent all this way just to reach him.
Some of the comments we heard in Glastonbury were: “I’m a fallen angel” (pointing to a tattoo); “I’m already saved” (jeeringly); “I’m a devil”.
On Tuesday, we drove to Cardiff, in Wales. It was cloudy and rainy on the way, but the sun came out just as we exited the building to find a spot to stand and it stayed nice for the entire time. Thank the Lord for His small and great blessings!
Brother Patrick spoke with a man who worked near the city centre and was on his lunch break. He said he is born again, has a very devout Catholic wife but a young son who is showing interest in the Bible. He said there are 1500 people at his office and only 8 of them saved. And yes, those are typical ratios in England.
One fellow claimed to have studied physics and to follow materialism (concept that only what’s “material” or “natural” is real) and that the rest was make-believe. What is a laughable philosophy! And had he thought about love, beauty, ideas, information? He said it was all atoms and molecules, all neurons swirling around people’s heads, and so forth. Any attempt to explain the gospel fell on a deaf ear. He stuck around quite a long time, left, then came back and seemed generally intent on getting under our skin. Everyone stood their ground, and he eventually left but it is our hope and prayer that he will consider his standing with the eternal creator-God whose material and nonmaterial universe it is.
Overall, we found Cardiff a very pleasant city, with good reception, even from the few Muslims we saw. Of course, the devil thought we were disturbing his efforts, and we had many mishaps on the way home, most notably slow GPS service that led us to miss many turnoffs and take the “scenic route” through farming country in southeast Wales, tacking an extra 150 minutes onto what should have been a simple 90-minute journey back home!
Back in Bristol on Wednesday, brother James met a man who had spent a couple of years in seminary and had been born again over 30 years earlier. This gentleman mentioned that the Catholics have some kind of outreach on Saturdays in Bristol. James offered him some tracts to give to these lost souls, and he said he would pass them out! A goal right up our alley (to encourage Bible believers to do what they can)!
We drove to nearby Weston-super-Mare on Thursday, a small seaside community with pensioners, most who seemed to have already had their fill of “religion”. Younger students were much more open, but there were not too many.
Enrique spoke with an older gentleman, born again, who was very happy to see us sharing the gospel in town. He said there is one man who goes out tracting every day, but we didn’t see him. In any case, this man said his church has only one person younger than 60, an Iranian he said was recently saved, and that funerals are among the most common events. A very sad, very common situation in England and in Europe in general.
Sister Tantri spoke with an older lady who declined the tract, telling our sister that she had just attended church service and didn’t need the gospel tract. Sadly, this older lady will not have this excuse on the Day of Judgment!
Sister Helen spoke a long time with a rather elderly gentleman who seemed to be rather educated but now has some cognitive decline. She asked if he had a Bible and what books did he like… He told her “the short ones!” She made her best attempt to point him toward the Bible and perhaps he will make some headway in his understanding of it.
James street-preached for some time at the pier, where the scenery was beautiful but there were few going by. Still, one lady listened very intently as he spoke about the pagan holiday of Halloween and a number of people accepted tracts. She later asked for a tract and DVD. There was one young African gentleman, perhaps the only one from the whole outreach, who gave a hearty “Yes, please!” to our offer of a gospel tract. A fitting and blessed ending to our last day together in England for the gospel.
Overall, we estimated that 5,000 tracts were given out, many thousands saw the banner, and much street preaching was heard. It’s always hard to tell if people are listening or not, but on at least two or three occasions, we noticed several people sitting at a short distance, taking pictures and very intent on catching every word. None of these people approached us, but we trust that the word of the Lord has not gone out in vain, whether in preaching, in conversations or in tracts!
Evenings were spent letter-boxing. We estimate maybe 1,500 were distributed this way. And Bristol train station was also covered, albeit once, due to very poor weather and it being on private property.
Here are some of the brief conversations we had:
–“Gospel message, sir?” “Not in my life!”
–“Jesus Christ? Not again!!!!”
–“Don’t you realize how silly this is?”
–“Will you recognize Jesus when you see Him?
–“I’m a Christian; I believe in God’s grace” [we replied, “yes, but the other side of the coin is our sin”]
–“God bless you, darling”
–(reading the banner) “that’s saying like we’re going to die or something”
–“I’m Catholic, I believe we’re reincarnated, Jesus taught us love”
–“I don’t believe in that [blankety-blank]”
–“I’m glad I already have eternal life in Jesus Christ”
–“I just came out of the church, I don’t need that”
–“Ex-catholics, what does that mean?” (reply: Grace alone) “Where do you hang out? Are you a large organization?” (reply: “Just the name of the website”)
–“I’m already converted (with a whiff of smoke)”
–“I’m not far away from that, I was raised Church of England, I was a Sunday school teacher”
–“I’m catholic, I go to mass everyday”
–“Too late for me, luv” (reply: no, not too late, you’re not dead yet)
–“I be unsaved, me luv”
–“I’m not local”
–“Convince the others to change the banner message”
–“I’m one of those that don’t believe in anything” (reply: so do you believe that nothing made everything?). “Well, who invented gunpowder?” (reply: God didn’t make gunpowder, man did). “Yes, but why did He make the materials to make gunpowder?” (reply: gunpowder is make of basic chemicals like carbon that are also necessary for life; God made many things that can be used for good or evil; it’s man who turns them to evil)
–“I don’t believe in a god who’ll send me to burn if I don’t believe”
–“I know God exists, He’s my friend”
–“No, I’m not from around here”
–“No, I’m an unbeliever”
–“Are you JW?” (reply: No, are you?) “No”
Make the Lord bless His word as it goes out, and may many consider the destiny of their souls and seek salvation. Amen and amen.