Arnold Schwarzenegger is certainly a household name by now, but many people may be surprised to hear he holds an annual conference right here in Columbus, OH. Thousands of folks flock from far (a little alliteration?) to get a chance to see Arnold, as well as learn about different supplements and equipment related to powerlifting and bodybuilding. Additionally, there are other athletic venues and competitions such as gymnastics and jujitsu.
This year, I was able to form a small team to assist me to pass out tracts and evangelize. Here’s the report! Now I don’t talk about money often, and you may know I do not ask for donations, but God provided in some marvelous ways this weekend and I want to boast about Him.
Friday night, March 1, Andrew Zunic’s wife made dinner for the two of us before we met Vince Montgomery, Megan Montgomery and Joe Conkle for evangelism. This was just one way that God provided for me. Normally, my sweet bride would gladly cook me dinner, but she had an event at another church that evening, so this worked out perfectly! Praise Jesus!
We started out at the intersection of W 2nd Avenue and High St and simply walked south. We went as far as Nationwide BLVD (a distance of about a mile). As we walked we passed out tracts and had a little fellowship. Megan got her first taste of Jeni’s ice cream that night!
Since there were enough of us, we split into two teams, and I went with Megan and Vince. We walked over to a group of teenagers who we found out were waiting for a bus and tracted them. Shortly after, a teach approached us, handed the tracts back and said, “Our students don’t need these.” I said something about not hindering the children from coming to Jesus as she walked away purposefully.
Trekking on, we were getting a lot of rejection when a man named Aaron happily spoke to us for a long time. He attends a church in town called the Potter’s House (which I don’t know much about), but in my evangelism I’ve run into several people from this church. From what I can tell, they get the gospel right, but amidst the chaos of Pentecostalism which is espoused there, it seems many people end up mistaking “feeling grooved by the music and worship” for an authentic “born again experience.”
Aaron was quite humble in admitting his sin, and he just couldn’t articulate the gospel (something that is indicative of not actually knowing the gospel). If this doesn’t concern you, read 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, especially verse 2. Overall it was an encouraging encounter.
Shortly after that, we met a man named Armand who is an Armenian from Canada. Not a typo, this man is actually from the country Armenia, although I doubt he was a Calvinist. It was an interesting conversation; the man basically believed the bible and about Jesus, but was also certain he was not born again. He seemed to understand grace to an extent, but when questioned, he proclaimed his own righteousness. I had to hold my tongue when he told me about his humility. I did try to use that as an opening to say that true humility would be acknowledging and believing what God has said. He agreed, but then left it up to individual interpretation.
Vince and Megan had to leave a bit early, so I found Joe and Andrew and we continued to pass out tracts. I met a young man who described himself as a “lost Christian.” I took this to mean that he believed he was a Christian, but that he needed some mentoring. I hope to follow up with him soon. He was actually attempting to break a lifting record that weekend! His name was easy to find on the internet. My night culminated in a thoughtful and friendly discussion/debate with an atheist, but not just any atheist: this man professed to be a born again believer for 15 years who eventually realized the truth of atheism.
He was most fun to talk to since he actually did already know most of the Christian arguments. In fact, many times he would ask a question knowing my response. I was happy a few times to surprise him with what I thought was a better answer than he expected; maybe those will cause him pause.
There were two very remarkable aspects to this conversation that I want to point out. The first is that this man KNEW the Christian gospel. He knew it as well as most Christians I know. In fact, he told me he had taught apologetics. When he told me this, I said, “So I’m sure you know the verse that goes ‘knowledge puffeth up?’” He got a kick out of that. But my point is this – these things are spiritually discerned. For those of you who think you can hand any nonbeliever Lee Strobel’s A Case for Christ and that’ll convince ‘em, understand this: apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, no man will see the glorious Truth of scripture for what it is and take it to heart. This man clearly had “learned” the bible, just like you can learn the storyline behind Star Wars. So don’t fall victim to the mindset that says, “If I refute all this man’s arguments, he will have no choice but to believe Christ.” It just doesn’t work that way.
That being said, you MAY thoughtfully and kindly engage a nonbeliever and discuss these things. But to be skilled at this takes practice and study in order to not get too frustrated. Often, I’ve seen Christians “lash out” in frustration, even seeing their own foundation shaken because they venture into one of these “debates.”
The second and most striking aspect to me was this: When John (that was his name) told me of his conversion from Christian to atheist – he described it in this way.
“First, I started to question how God could send so many people to hell and so few to Heaven. Then, I stopped going to church…”
There’s your key, folks. I’ve heard very few testimonies of “former Christians” who didn’t stop going to church. Let that be your lesson for today.
So Friday night, a few hundred tracts were passed out, a handful of one on one witnessing encounters occurred, and we learned just how cold it gets at night in Columbus in Winter. Everyone made it home safely and prepared for the next day.
Saturday was a different story. By the time I was preparing to pick up Andrew again, I found out that the other two team members who planned to meet us EACH had car trouble. Ultimately, Fred Triplett had to bow out entirely. Joe Conkle overcame the distress and met us outside the convention center in spite of the hardship.
Andrew & I drove to Columbus and I parked for $5. Then I paid for us to ride the bus for another $5. Total spent so far $10. You’ll understand why the emphasis later. 🙂
The crowd was simply wonderful. We spent the day passing out an estimated 2,000 tracts, and I preached with my amplified speaker for several hours. We were directly outside an entrance to the Arnold and people were stopped at the stoplights all day, so I had an audience. Several Christians stopped and encouraged me and the other guys, and we were close enough to go indoors and warm up and use the rest room. I won’t say it was easy, we were standing in 30 degree weather with wind for several hours, but we would not complain either. It actually is a good example to people of our love and kindness. Some people didn’t agree with our message, but they couldn’t deny our commitment to sharing the message, and so no real personal gain we could be receiving from our efforts, only sacrifice.
We count it all joy that we can stand in the cold to proclaim the gospel! Oh how many people never even hear of it!
We took a short break for lunch; I took care of paying for the three of us to the tune of about 18 dollars ($28 spent), and we enjoyed some fellowship and warmed up. The afternoon was filled with preaching and a few good 1 on 1’s. At one point, a young may who was smoking spoke to me at length and was really questioning what he believed. The cool part was that he knew the lifter I had met the night before. While we were talking other people who wanted a cigarette approached asking for a light, etc. They joined the conversation and we had a long talk with a man named Vernon who is seriously asking some good questions, but fills his mind with too much philosophy. I challenged him to read the bible again and see for himself if the things I told him were true.
Oh, so many more things happened that day, and you could always get Vince or Megan Montgomery’s and Joe Conkle’s or Andrew Zunic’s perspectives as well, but for the sake of length I’ll cut this off. Andrew and I walked to the bus stop, I paid $4 more to ride to the car and go home.
Oh yeah, about the money. As I said, I do not ask people for money. It just isn’t something I do at this point, and I know people who DO and I have no problem with that. But in this case, I had two people ask me if they could help by providing meals. I explained that due to the circumstances, the only real way a meal could be provided would be with cash. Well, after spending $32 out of my pocket for the transportation, parking and food, I arrived at church Sunday and received a gift of $25. What a wonderful God I serve! I can’t say how grateful I am for this. This allows me to continue to do this kind of work with less financial obligation.
May God bless the preaching of His Word and save souls! Thanks for reading.
Joseph Beale says
Two of the guys that you ran into on Saturday were part of my witnessing team. I was standing up in the covered bridge that goes across High and Nationwide handing out tracts with two of my children. Overall, the 7 of us handed out about 1800 tracts, mostly the celebrity million dollar bills. I heard that you’re going to visit our Sunday morning group this week. Unfortunately I’ll be out of town on Sunday and won’t be able to see you. Maybe you could delay for one week? Too bad Fred wasn’t able to make it; I’ve been out with him several times and he’s a very faithful witness. Regards, Joe Beale
Thanks for the note, Joe. Unfortunately, I can’t commit to the 24th or the 31st, so instead of putting off the whole idea for a month from when I met the guys, I opted for meeting this week. But that doesn’t mean it would be the last time I came on a Sunday morning. Look forward to meeting you in person someday!