Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Story (Part 12) - On the Streets

Read Part 11

As 2006 rolled around, I was ready to share with others what God had been putting on my heart, specifically in the area of evangelism.  We began offering regular Way of the Master training courses.  Many were getting excited and more people were beginning to share their faith with confidence.  It was an exciting time.  We were doing more to go out to the streets to hand out Gospel tracts and talk with people about the Gospel.

In 2008, a group of men from the church went down to a Living Waters conference in West Virginia.  It was there that God pushed me in a direction that began to alarm me.  I left there feeling a burden to begin open air preaching.  I never thought I would do that.  Living Waters had just launched their Ambassadors' Academy, giving on site training, especially in open air preaching.  I knew I had to go.  But the cost was quite high.  So, I told the Lord I would go someday, when we had the money.  Well, someone in the church rallied support and one Sunday morning I was told that the church had come together to raise the money for me to go to the Academy, including airfare.  I was excited, but scared because my excuse was now gone!

Preaching on Hollywood Blvd.
I was accepted to attend the June Academy in 2009.  To get my feet wet, I went with a couple of friends (one came with me to the Academy) went to a local park to take out first stab at open air preaching on May 23, 2009.  I was so scared I thought I was going to black out.  It went a lot better than I had thought, and God brought a woman to us who encouraged us.

My time at the Academy was life-changing.  I did things I never thought I would do.  My shyness and introversion had inhibited my evangelism for years.  Now I was open air preaching on Hollywood Blvd.!  I left the Academy with a clear sense of what we could do back in Cleveland.

Evangelism really took off in my life, in the church, and God began connecting us with other evangelists across the greater Cleveland area.  It was so refreshing!

2009 Evangelism Boot Camp
In August of that year, we hosted our own version of an Ambassadors' Academy, our Evangelism Boot Camp.  At this point, God began to open many doors for us in evangelism, and also with Living Waters.  In December of that year, I was allowed to co-host Ambassadors' Alliance Radio for one show with Tony Miano.  We also partnered with Living Waters for their Origin Into Schools outreach that fall.  This would become a regular pattern each year with the Boot Camp and partnering with Living Waters for a large-scale outreach in the fall.  We also went regularly to local parks, the Cleveland Zoo, and a music festival an hour south of Cleveland to share the Gospel.  It was exciting to see God's people active in sharing their faith, something that myself and others in the church had struggled with for some time.

Along with all this evangelism, there was a renewed focus on the Word of God, especially in teaching through the Bible verse-by-verse on Sundays.  One of the most shocking blessings I had gotten was to get a phone call from someone in Maryland who said that they found my sermons online and were listening to them every week with their home Bible study group.  Wow - that was not me!  That was God.

I wish I could say that everything was sunshine and candy bars.  These two approaches to ministry were not well-received by everyone who knew me.  Some were sharply against what I was doing.  Others thought it was wonderful.  Secretly, a dark side was brewing in me.  In my sincere attempt to defend what I was doing, a subtle pride was emerging.  I do not want to dismiss blame, but I allowed myself to be sucked into an attitude that is found heavy online of Biblical evangelists who see anyone else as less-than in a spiritual sense.  Basically, we are doing it right and everyone else is wrong.  I was blown and tossed by this for some time, and I didn't like the tension that was going on inside of me.  By the end of 2010, something would happen that would blast my world apart.

Read Part 13

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