Another Evangelical Church Attender That Couldn't Explain the Gospel
As we walked to the Walker Avenue circle, we met a young man who went to an Assemblies of God Church in Greensboro but couldn't really tell me how to be reconciled to God. I explained the gospel to him and encouraged him to read 1st John and examine himself to see whether he is truly in the faith. He seemed somewhat disinterested at the beginning of the conversation per his body language, but when I began to speak of the true gospel and contrasted that with the false gospel prevalent in many seeker churches, that gained his attention. Why are so many young evangelical church attenders clueless about the gospel? Many of the young evangelical church attenders that I have spoken with are clueless about the gospel because they are the product of the churches that they come from. If your "church's" ministry philosophy is a seeker-sensitive, Saddleback, shopping mall model, then most people attending those buildings will not have a clue what the gospel is because preaching and teaching the gospel in an expository fashion doesn't mix well with keeping the funds up so as to pay for such a infrastructure. Thus, the gospel is ditched and is replaced by Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Open Air Preaching
People started to gather to listen to the preaching only 5-10 minutes after I started. I had several people yelling things at me from a distance but lacking the courage of their convictions to engage me personally. Three hecklers gathered after 30 minutes of preaching with the first arguing for existentialism, the second arguing that talking about "God" is non-meaningful, and the third asking various questions.
1. Existentialistic relativism
The first heckler was a young lady that wanted to argue for existentialism because I was preaching that if there is no God then there is no inherent meaning in anything and that reality amounts to nihilism. She objected by noting that Sartre was an existentialist and that he said we could create any meaning we wanted to and then impute that meaning to our reality. I responded with something like, "But what happens when the meaning I create and impute to my reality contradicts your created and imputed meaning?" I then explained to her the self-refuting nature of existentialism and used that to preach the gospel of the God who gives the proper interpretation to all of reality and that if you want to know what truth is, know the mind of God as it is revealed to us in the Bible.
2. Meaningless god-talk
The next heckler was a young man that I have interacted with before. Today, he asked me a few questions about the meaning of the word "God" and I gave him the classic catechism definition: "God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth". He then asked, "What is spirit?" and I said, "spirit". He said, "you're arguing in a circle and so your talk about god is meaningless" and I then said, "Your reasoning is circular too my friend! Explain to me what matter is if I ask you, 'What is matter?'" He got the point; for his only recourse would have been to answer "Matter" or "Matter is the basic material substance that the universe is made of". I explained to him that in a similar manner "Spirit is the basic substance that God consists of". He seemed to get frustrated at this point and then asked another question about theological determinism and how I could know anything about God. I quickly answered that God predestines everything and then I pointed to the ground under his feet and pulled my Bible out of my pocket and explained to him that God has not only revealed Himself to us through the creation but also through Scripture. He asked, "Well, then why has God hidden Himself?" to which I responded, "He hasn't to all men, but reveals who He is specifically to some men." I then tried to read Jesus' prayer to the Father in Matthew 11:25-27 where Christ says, "I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent . . .", but when I pulled my Bible out and started reading from it; it was like I pulled out a literal sword and he and his friends left immediately. I then said, "Hey man, you just asked me a question and now you're walking away because I pulled out my Bible? Are you scared of a book?"
3. A Good Questioner and Listener
The third heckler's name was Adam. He asked some great questions about the reliability of the Bible, the nature of God, and salvation and he listened receptively. When I began to explain the gospel to him, he quickly noted that he understood that based upon what I had explained to him from John 6:37-44, there was no way to be reconciled to God unless God came down and opened up his eyes to the truth of the gospel. About four of us said, "Amen, you've got it!" I then told him the best thing he could do would be to put his face in the carpet and beg God for mercy and that if he was genuinely humble, contrite, and repentant, then God will never turn him away. I encourage all to spend time with people that listen receptively like Adam did, for God may use these interactions to bring them to Christ.
After I finished preaching, we had about 20 kids standing around and asking great questions. Many of them were Christians who simply wanted to express their thanks for our efforts. I pointed them to Christ for these things, knowing that we could take no credit whatsoever. My prayer is that God would open Adam's eyes to behold Jesus Christ and that He will continue to give us the ability to do what we are doing each week at UNCG.