Ministry Team 2019: Walk-Up Evangelism
by Thaddeus Meadows, Bethel OPC, Wheaton, IL (September 2019)
Thad was a member of the Ministry Team that served during "Week Four" at the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, NJ, in July 2019. The team was organized by Covenant OPC (Orland Park, IL) and had 24 members from California, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
Thad joins his team setting out on the Boardwalk
“Hi, I’m Seth, and we’re with the Boardwalk Chapel!”
“Okay, fine, we’ll listen to what you have to say! You guys are the fourth group from the Boardwalk Chapel that’s come up to us tonight.”
“Well, thanks for the food. I guess we’d better be going now.”
“Wait! At least let us share the Gospel with you first, that’s why we do this!”
“I don’t know if we’ve got time…”
“Do you have a minute? David can give the presentation in a minute or less.”
“Well… okay, sure.”
“Pardon me, ma’am, but could we have a moment of your time? You see, we’re with the Boardwalk Chapel, and we like to come out every night and talk to people, ask them what they think about religion. Would you be interested in having a conversation?”
“Oh, yes, of course!”
Those are the beginnings to three conversations I participated in this summer at the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, New Jersey. Each one came with its own host of surprises. Each one, I believe, planted a seed, one that I and my fellow youth groupers pray will, in time, grow into a strong and healthy faith. Each one revealed to me a little bit more about my own faith, helped me grow closer to God, reminded me forcefully of his providence, or his mercy, or his goodness.
These were walk-up conversations - a large part of what the Chapel does. Each night, groups are sent out onto the Boardwalk to seek conversations. A terrifying task, for some: one of the hardest things you will ever do is walk up to some random person on the street and ask them, “Do you know the Gospel?” More often than not, you’ll simply get turned away, brushed off, dismissed out of hand. Sometimes, encouragingly, you’ll have walked up to someone who already knows the Lord (always an uplifting experience). Or, maybe, you’ll gather your courage, come up with just the right words to say, step up, build up a magnificent head of steam, feel immensely, unstoppably prepared for this conversation you’re about to have… and the person you walked up too doesn’t speak English.
Or, sometimes, they listen. And when they do, you’re confronted with a new task - actually having something to say. It’s not easy, knowing what to say and how to say it. “Just tell them the Gospel!” Yes, but which parts? You probably don’t have time to read the book of John to them. Sometimes all you have is a minute. (On a side note, if you plan on doing walk-up style evangelism, I think one of the best things you can practice is trying to give a Gospel presentation in a minute. The Chapel staff had us practice it this year, and I must say, I’ve used it as a conversation starter multiple times since.)
The point is, though, that you cannot prepare, personally, for every opportunity and every conversation. Which is why we must remember, whenever we are doing outreach, of any sort, that these works are not our own. And, even more, that God is sovereign. He will guide us to the right conversations, he will make sure and certain that we say the right things at the right times. It’s not our own works that bring men to Christ, it’s the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. In so many ways, we’re just there to watch and learn.
It pays to remember that, wherever we’re called to serve. I have a talent, I like to think, for walk-up evangelism. More than that, it brings me almost indescribable joy. If you haven’t had an opportunity to try it, if you think you can do it, I strongly encourage you to search for an opportunity. But, not all people’s talents lie in that direction. There is just as much value or more in inviting your unbelieving neighbors over for dinner, or in teaching your children (or anyone’s children) a catechism, or even simply offering your support when a friend is struggling.
What I’m trying to say is this: whether you’re a teacher or a student, whether you’re an employer or employee, whether you’re a missionary or a secretary, we’re all called to the Great Commission. And God never calls us to a task we cannot complete, with his help.