A Short Diary of Dr. Dave’s Street Experiences — Spring 2009

The following accounts are taken from blog entries I composed during the Spring of 2009. The experiences described are representative of the street ministry I’ve been blessed with over the last few years, which, by the grace of God, continues today. I pray that some of the insights offered are encouraging to you.

One-on-one in downtown Chicago today

Thursday, March 5th 2009
The Lord blessed me greatly today. The forecast was cloudy with possible drizzle, but when I got to Chicago, the skies cleared and had perfect sunshine for 5 hours. The pedestrian flow is marvelous there. I was able to give out over 1000 tracts and had serious conversations, with a Gospel presentation, with about 15 individuals. I love the diversity: got to talk to an ex-Catholic atheist (like I used to be), plus several religious lost, old and young . . . and felt I got “traction” with several. But that’s really the Lord’s business — working on the heart. We do our part and pray that the Holy Spirit does the great work of conviction in the heart.

Doing a day in Chicago is always a 48-hour job for me. I invariably lose sleep the night before and the night after and the devil always seems to try to throw confusion into my life the day before. But since this is a pattern, it’s no surprise. And the Lord Jesus promised to be with us in the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20), right to the end of the world — especially this present age before He returns.

Atheists and Nanotechnology

Monday, March 9th 2009
In the last week I’ve had the pleasure of talking to several atheists. It usually takes about 2 minutes to help them backslide, so they will give me an attentive hearing on the law and the Gospel. I use a modified version of Ray Comfort’s approach. Here’s a sample of what I’ve found to be useful (and be sure to always be gracious and compassionate!) . . .

“If there is no God, you’ve got another problem — you don’t exist. Who am I talking to right now? If you are just a collection of molecules in motion, then the next thing you say is just the result of brain chemistry — you and I are no different from rocks. Is that right? (No matter what he says . . . ) Now, was that you or brain chemistry? You know that you exist, deciding between good ideas and bad. There is a purpose to your life — you’re more than a rock!”

“Once you know that you exist, it’s not hard to figure out that God does. See that building? Do you know the architect, the builder? Neither do I, but you and I have no doubt that someone with skill and intelligence put that structure together. Buildings don’t happen by time, physics, and chance. And you are walking nanotechnology. Every cell in your body is far more complex than that building, far more complex than a supercomputer. And supercomputers don’t happen by time, physics, and chance. The Designer of life is awesome, brilliant.”

“And God gave you a moral conscience to prove you are more than a rock. Is murder wrong? Is rape wrong? Is molesting a child wrong? Doesn’t your heart cry out for justice when you hear of these things? So, have you ever murdered anyone?”

. . . and from murder (anger, hate), to adultery (lust), etc. we go through the law and the Gospel.

The hope I have for atheists (I was one once), is that if they figure out there is a God, they may just do something about it, namely repent and believe. I did 40 years ago.

Getting out there, week after week

Friday, March 13th 2009
It’s a great blessing to get to the point where you can testify like Paul, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel,” or like Jeremiah (context is 20:7-9), “. . . his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”

I got “out there” early in the week and was blessed to hand out hundreds of tracts and personally witness to several, but other conflicts and weather blocked my plans for later in the week. Which just makes me really antsy to hit the streets with extra energy next week. The best way to achieve “burning fire in the bones” is to get past the first thousand times where you have to kick yourself to get out there. Eventually, the ministry of reconciliation — preaching — becomes truly addictive.

I just finished a wonderfully encouraging book, America in Crimson Red, by James Beller, a history of the persecution of Baptist believers in the American colonies and in the early days of this nation’s new existence. In 1768 three Baptist preachers were arrested in Virginia for preaching without a license. One of the court’s accusations against them was, “May it please your worships, these men are great disturbers of the peace, for they cannot meet a man upon the road, but they must ram a text of Scripture down his throat.” (I’m sure they were gracious, but the enemy always takes it the wrong way!)

And other preachers, arrested, beaten, but preaching through the window grates of their jail cells, saw many converts and produced enough Biblical Christians that religious liberty became possible some years after the revolution.

When I read of such men and events (as in the book of Acts), I’m spurred to get out more and preach with more fervor. When we meet these saints in heaven, I want to have some stories to tell!

Murderers on the streets!

Monday, March 16th 2009
My partner, Mike, and I had a wonderful time in Chicago today. Passed out over 2000 tracts and shared the Gospel verbally with about 25 people. Including atheists, a Muslim who is a student at (Catholic) DePaul University, several Catholics, a number of ‘religious lost’, and at least 3 murderers! Also had an atheist lawyer, who was a real scoffer last summer, approach me to ask some questions, with a much more humble attitude — God has been on his trail!

When I moved to northern Illinois 3 years ago, I noticed that in going through the law, that some would actually admit (credibly, with serious body language) to literal murder. I started counting, and to date I’ve witnessed to at least 38 confessed murderers, walking the streets of Chicago and Rockford. (Not all of them have done jail time, though.) Of course it’s worse than they think, because hate, anger, and calling someone “a fool” is murder of the heart. And adultery, lying, etc., just add to their condemnation. I find that murderers are very easy to talk to: they’re not as self-righteous as many others.

On the train ride home, I got a call on my cell from Jose, who was gripped by a tract from my partner that morning. I got to explain the Gospel more deeply to Jose, who promised to start reading the Gospel of John, write down some questions and call me soon.

Had another thought today. Given the population of the Chicago metro area, if only 2 percent are Christians (2% is my guess on the national average), and only 1 percent of that 2 percent would commit to 3 days per year for street evangelism in Chicago, we could see 5 pairs of soul-winners every day of the year in the downtown area! Why do so few care? I’m thinking of writing a letter to area pastors to look for volunteers. So many souls, so few laborers.

Encouraging Christians you meet on the street

Monday, March 23rd 2009
My wife and I had a good day on the campus of Northern Illinois U today. Handed out over 500 tracts and we were blessed to talk at some length to about 10 students individually. Four of the 10 were, I believe (probably!), genuine born again Christians. I always probe a bit when someone professes to be born again. I ask them what they are saved from, what saves them, etc. If they give good answers, I like to ask them “when.” If they say, for example, “1 year,” then I’ll ask, “So, if you had died 2 years ago, would you have gone to hell because you deserved to?” And I want to know if their life has dramatically changed, from death to life, from old creature to new, etc.

If they crawfish on that, or on any other point, then I’m going through the law with them, just like anyone else. But if they “pass,” then I want to encourage them a bit. “So what are you doing for the Lord this week?” Going to church doesn’t count — we do that for ourselves. I’m looking to see whether they are sharing the Gospel with the lost. I got to ask several times today, “When was the last time you shared with a lost person that he was a sinner, had broken God’s laws, was headed for hell, and then you told them the good news?”

It’s sad how few professing Christians have a good testimony in this, of course. I’ll point out that there are 2 big reasons why Christians don’t preach the Gospel. 1. They don’t love God. 2. They don’t love others. Namely, they break the 2 biggest commandments every day in a big way!

I always have a specialty tract on me to give to (real) Christians I meet. It’s a comic called “The Letter,” which is a heart-rending story about a friend of a Christian who goes to hell because, in part, the Christian never had the guts to share the Gospel clearly. That tract brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it — Would that the truth of this brings tears to our eyes regularly.

Demons can be tricky

Wednesday, April 1st 2009
I worked Chicago downtown today. Talked to many people and emptied my bag of tracts (1000+). One notable experience: I was sharing the law and the Gospel with a middle aged Catholic, who got fairly argumentative. In the context, there was no apparent reason for him to get argumentative, because he disagreed with much of Roman Catholicism and agreed with many of the points I was making. And he was clearly interested in carrying on an argument.

He gave no evidence of “demon possession”, but I recognized this tactic as from the enemy to waste my time. So I quickly cut it off, and immediately ran into a young man who was distraught over his recent troubles (we were outside the courthouse) and gave me a good hearing. He confessed right up front that he was headed for hell and thanked me profusely when we finished — I gave him several tracts with my contact info.

In retrospect, it’s clear to me that if I’d gotten embroiled in debate with the RC, I’d have missed Joseph. I’ve run into this type of thing before. On Monday in Rockford, a clearly demon-possessed young man wanted to get into a debate with me. I cut that off, too, and was therefore able to catch others walking by at that time.

One more thing: While I was in Chicago today, our daughter-in-law called my wife and asked, “Is Dave in Chicago today?” All she knew was that for the last day or so trouble was brewing in their family’s circumstances. This has happened before. Satan will do anything he can to discourage the preaching of the Gospel. When he does so visibly, I take encouragement! But so much more encouragement from the Lord!!! He blessed His work today. What a joy to be a part of it!

Rejected 6,000 times!

Wednesday, April 8th 2009
You have to work hard to get rejected 6,000 times (at least that many – might have been more). I brought a new partner, Chris, to work the downtown Chicago streets with me yesterday. We’ve worked Rockford together before, but this was his first trip to the “big show.”

To get out the 2,000 tracts we brought with us, it’s a given that we’re going to get rejected many thousands of times. And each rejection hurts!. I can’t seem to get over that, and I pray I never will. But it’s a joy to put a Gospel tract into the hands of people who would likely have no other witness. And some people linger to talk — we were able to give serious verbal presentations to about 15.

You’ve got to be fresh with each one you talk to — just as energized with the last one as the first. And each tract offered has got to be with earnestness and a smile. One of my heroes is “Uncle John” Vassar, a 19th Century itinerant evangelist for about 36 years, including the Civil War years. He would go from house to house, farm to farm, army camp to army camp, sharing the Gospel, preaching to a crowd when he could get one, and giving his life up for the Gospel’s sake. He would reportedly preach or witness personally 50 to 60 times per day. And each time he was diligent to be as fresh as could be. Souls were at stake! And still are! And the Lord Jesus Himself promised to walk with us in this work — and He still does!

The “gift” of evangelism?

Monday, April 13th 2009
It’s clear that all believers, in order to follow our Lord Jesus, are called to preach the Gospel. If I’m saved from hell by the grace of God, how can I not share that? It’s clear though, that some are more “gifted” at evangelism than others.

Last Friday afternoon I teamed up with a new partner (‘J’) that, according to what he said, had no experience in 1-2-1 evangelism with strangers. We hit downtown Rockford on Friday afternoon, partly sunny, about 50 degrees F. The Lord blessed us with a pair of ladies to talk to immediately after we parked the car. They were responsive, concerned, asked questions . . . in short, I felt we got “traction”, and so ‘J’ got to hear me go through a complete 1-2-1 right off the bat.

Right after that, I pointed out someone I wanted ‘J’ to talk to and he went right at it, with no hesitation. We had a “spectacular” afternoon from that point. We each had at least 15 serious 1-2-1s, and passed out about 350 tracts.

It occurred to me that ‘J’ may have the “gift” of evangelism, which I’ll define by evidence of: no fear, easy to get conversations with people, acts like it’s a “normal” thing to do! I confess that I DON’T have that gift. But then the apostle Paul evidently didn’t either. In 1 Cor 2:3 he professed his weakness, fear, and much trembling. But he got addicted to the ministry, as expressed in 1 Cor 9:16. The Lord’s (perhaps) greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Moses (see Deut 18:15-18 for God’s comparison of Moses with Jesus), was also meek and fearful.

I wish I had the “gift”, but I’m content to have the burning fire in my bones, like Jeremiah (Jer 20:7-9), even if I don’t find it “normal” to confront sinners with their hell-bound condition. I pray that ‘J’ sticks with it. I know the Lord can use him greatly. I’ve seen others with the “gift” that don’t stick, and I’ve seen those with much fear and trembling that do. Either way, the main thing is to stick — be faithful. Use whatever motivation you need on any given day, whether love for God, love for the lost, obedience, desire for rewards, fear of sliding, or . . . my favorite . . . the joy of walking with the Lord while doing His work!

Camp on that sin!

Sunday, April 19th 2009
A new partner and I had great liberty from the Lord on Friday for 121s and tracts in the Chicago Loop. (My new partner is an area pastor. I’ve sent out 15 letters so far “looking for a man in your church” who might want to join me for street evangelism in Chicago. One pastor responded enthusiastically and joined me this week. One other declined emphatically. Thirteen others ignored my letter.)

We met a young man, in his 20s, named Anthony. He professed to be born again and answered most of my questions (law, new birth, etc.) adequately. But he exuded “worldliness”, so I probed deeper about how his life has changed (2 Cor 5:17). I found the right question:

“Are you married?”
“So, are you keeping your hands off women?”
“Of course not.”
“So, you’re living in fornication, sex outside of marriage?”
“Hey, nobody’s perfect! Everybody sins!”

I used 1 John 3:8-10 and camped on his confessed sin. It’s not the sins that don’t tempt you that require repentance. It’s the sin that you’re addicted to that is the test as to whether you will repent toward God and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21, 26:18,20, etc.)

That seemed to get traction. He heard me out and, hopefully, the Holy Spirit will camp on his trail. When the rich young ruler came to Jesus (Mark 10), the Lord “camped” on his lust for riches. In John 4, Jesus camped on the sin of adultery/fornication. In Acts 2, Peter camped on the Jews’ rejection and murder of the Messiah. In Acts 17, Paul camped on the pagan idolatry of the Athenians.

The rich young ruler probably didn’t need to repent from adultery. The Pharisees didn’t typically need to repent from drunkenness. (The Athenians probably needed to repent from everything!)

Etc. If we are blessed to know what the besetting sin of a lost man is, let’s “camp” on it. If he repents from his big sin, the little ones will follow, and the Lord will save.

Be gracious, be compassionate, but point out sin and the judgment and the lake of fire to come! As you all know, most Americans think they’re “OK” and don’t see themselves as wicked and lost.

“Preach the word . . . reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine”.

Don’t miss the “easy” ones

Saturday, April 25th 2009
It’s one thing to plan and execute the day-long “safari” — like the blessing 3 of us had this week to travel to Chicago’s Loop and exhaust ourselves (happily) with 121s and tracting. It’s another thing to simply be alert and not miss “easy” opportunities.

Last night after supper I walked a bit in the park next to our house. I was just out to stretch, but I’ve always got tracts in my pocket. I saw 4 teen boys headed my way, but they turned off and I decided to let them go, rather than give chase. I lofted a short prayer to God to give me another chance with them. But then I ran into a mom with two teens, headed to their car. They were happy to take tracts. I gave each of them a different “comic”, so they could trade later and get 3 Gospel witnesses. (I use a mix of tracts from Living Waters, chick.com (short comics), and onemilliontracts.com (cards).)

Then I crossed paths with 3 teens (2 girls, 1 guy). When I got within earshot, I heard them talking about drinking hard liquor — the guy was bragging about his capacity. I asked them if I had met them or not — we hadn’t (so many faces, so short in memory!). Offering them some Living Water IQ tests (a variety), I asked whether they were above average in intelligence or below (with a smile.) The answer is always “above”, of course.

When one of the girls saw that she had a Gospel tract, she said, “Oh yeah, my dad is a pastor.” I went through the law — a new experience for the other 2 — but the preacher’s daughter was undeterred: “Oh sure, but I’m forgiven . . . I’m saved . . . I’ve asked Jesus into my heart . . .” etc. While exuding worldliness and with not a thought that even if she truly were a believer (no evidence in sight), it’s clear that her friends weren’t.

I pray that the Holy Spirit use the tracts and our encounter to work on their hearts. And I may be blessed to have another “shot” with them.

Do be alert. We cross people every time we’re out that don’t know the Lord — even if they think they do. This morning out walking in the rain I met a 27 year old landscape worker (has a wife and a new baby) who had no idea whether he was headed for heaven or hell. And he attends one of the “conservative” evangelical churches in the area. He was receptive, heard me out, and got thinking about how it’s not just about him, but his wife and child need to know the Lord, too. And the tension he admitted in his marriage would evaporate if both he and his wife were saved and right with God. He’s got my phone number — hope I hear from him.

Preaching in the rain

Saturday, May 2nd 2009
The forecast for Thursday was rotten all week — rain / thunderstorms all day. But our schedule gave us no alternative to that day — and we had to do Northern Illinois U one more time during the Spring semester. We prayed for God to change the weather so we could have liberty for tracting and 121s. We’ve seen remarkable weather miracles in the past.

God answered our prayers for liberty — but the weather was awful. It rained the whole day. But with 500 tracts out and at least 15 serious 121s, my partner Chris said it was the best day he had ever personally seen! God didn’t change the weather, but He gave us wonderful liberty — and wisdom to bring umbrellas, boots, etc.

We had 121s with atheists, professing (lost) “Christians”, the religious, the clueless, etc. I got a big kick out of the tour group that came through. The tour guide pointed out to a group of 15-20 that “Freedom Circle” was set aside for anyone to engage in free speech, give out pamphlets, etc., and that there were 2 gentlemen doing that right now. (It was just like we were an expected part of the tour. But then we’ve been there 3 1/2 years.) When she paused at just the right time, I spoke up and said, “And I have some free cards for each one of you, if you’d like.” The tour guide, just like it was in the script, said, “You can take one or not, it’s completely up to you.” So I handed out a Gospel tract to almost everyone in the group! Just wonderful.

We also got to meet a truly born again lady who was frustrated in looking for a church. All the churches she’d found seemed focused on “entertainment.” We invited her to ours, so we hope to see her again.

I know the devil was mad about all this — I got one of those nasty phone messages from an atheist who didn’t like one of our tracts. It seemed that the blunt depiction of “hell” offended him far more than anything else. But if you’re an atheist, why care about hell?

Don’t let weather stop you! Some of our best days have been in rain or snow or 10 degree (Fahrenheit) weather!

Thanked, Ignored, Cursed, & Blessed

Tuesday, May 12th 2009
I traveled solo to downtown Chicago yesterday, but then in the Great Commission we’re never alone, are we? The Lord Jesus promises to be with us in this work until He returns. In the process of passing out over 1000 tracts and engaging in at least 20 one-to-ones, I had the privilege of being thanked several times, ignored thousands of times, cursed once, and thoroughly blessed by the Lord all throughout the day.

One of Satan’s favorite tactics was on display with two brothers I talked with. The talkative one became argumentative as he resisted any probing about his salvation. He insisted that he could be saved even though he lived in a pattern of sin. Thankfully, his cell phone rang, so I was able to focus on his quiet brother, who admitted that he didn’t know the Lord, was concerned about his soul, and was humble about the sins in his life. When the angry brother got off the phone, I was able to ignore him and finish with the quiet one, give him some tracts and contact info, and trust the Lord to stay on his trail. Thank you, Lord, for that phone call.

I love to run into groups of teenagers. I try to find the “friendliest” looking one near the front to offer a tract to. Then it’s easy to get everyone in the group to take a tract. I always have at least 10 or 15 different kinds of tracts on me, so when I meet such a group, everybody can get a different tract. So they can all trade later and get the Gospel multiple times. (I use a big variety from Living Waters, Chick Publications, and onemilliontracts.com)

The blaspheming and cursing I got was from a little old Jewish lady, who got angry when she found out the tract was about Jesus. She blamed Christians for the great historical persecution against “her people.” She didn’t give me a chance to explain that I am also Jewish by blood and that real Christians have NEVER persecuted the Jews. I have a tract entitled “Love the Jewish People”, which often gets accepted and read, but not in this case.

Finally, but most important yesterday, there were several who got under real conviction. Jeff heard me out and when I asked him what he was going to do about it, he said that he would repent and trust Christ that day. I encouraged him to do just that and to give me a call. Juan, later in the day, came to the same point and agreed that Satan would try to distract and discourage him. He promised to do business with the Lord and call me, too. In both cases, these grown men knew Scripture, had grown up in evangelical churches, and had never been told they were lost and that they must repent and be born again — such that sin is forsaken and life changes by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What a blessing to do this work! If you’re not out there every week, get going!

Chicago: Never a dull moment

Tuesday, May 19th 2009
What a day! Sunshine and 75 degrees. 2100 tracts, at least 25 solid 121s. Here’s a sampling of what my partner and I got to deal with today:

1. 2 cases of Christians who were thrilled to see us working the street. Both said they wanted to call and get involved in street evangelism. One works every day downtown, has been exposed to LW, and has been “feeling convicted” that he should start sharing the Gospel. Seeing us seems to have put him over the edge — in a good way!

2. An atheist college student who brushed me off. I forget just what I used to “freeze” him, but I was able to get him to stop by using one of my standards: “Hey, I used to be an atheist, and I love atheists!” . . . or . . . “So, have you figured out what the purpose of life is yet?” . . . or . . . “So you haven’t thought it through, have you?” At any rate, he stopped and engaged with me. My favorite 121 — a polite atheist. Left him an “Atheist Test” with my own notes on creation/evolution enclosed.

3. An obviously demon possessed (or strongly influenced) “professing” Christian who wanted to interrupt my work and argue with me about anything under the sun. I cut him off twice, but the 3rd time he came over to bother me, I just politely said I had to go and changed corners. Satan will waste your life if you let him.

4. A Hispanic Jehovah’s Witness. I haven’t met that combination often.

5. Two Jewish college students approached me to interview me for a school project. Asked me about the Drew Peterson murder case and my opinion on the bail decision. I responded carefully, but then asked them if they were innocent or guilty in God’s eyes, not just man’s. One said that they were Jewish, so my clever partner whipped out our tract “Love the Jewish People”, which they were happy to receive. They kept the tape going while I shared the law and the Gospel with them. Hopefully, others will get to listen to the interview, too.

6. Got to give tracts to 3 nuns at a bus stop. They weren’t open to talking, but I saw them start to read their tracts.

7. And the usual variety of Catholics, evangelical lost, self-righteous, etc.

8. And, of course, we got ignored or brushed off thousands of times. I never get used to that. You never know when that might be the last chance for someone to hear a Gospel witness. That’s why I like to go back to some of the same places. Sometimes, somebody gives you another chance.

The Lord blessed us greatly today. There is nothing as satisfying as spending a day walking with the Lord Jesus and a brother in the Lord, doing the Lord’s work!

– Dr. Dave

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