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SOS Monthly Newsletter - July 2003
Taking the Church to the Streets
Dear Christian friends,
Many people refuse to step inside a church building -- except perhaps for a wedding or funeral. Some claim that they had a bad experience in a church or were turned off by the coldness and hypocrisy they saw. Others think themselves unworthy to enter a church building. If people will not come into a church building, we can and should bring the church to them.
The church, of course, is not a building but the body of believers that God has called out of the world unto Himself. The early Christians did not have special church buildings. They met in homes and in public places such as Solomon's porch, on the Temple grounds (Acts 5:12). When we have church services in public places, it gives unbelievers an opportunity to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, the beauty of worship, the love, joy, and peace that is felt as believers gather together and the reality of knowing Christ. Demonic powers are scattered when Christians gather in true worship, and an atmosphere is established in which unbelievers are convicted of their sin and drawn to Christ.
There are several ways to adapt a church service to a street situation. The first method we have used involves a single church holding an outdoor service in a public park. If you pick a busy park and meet there on a regular basis, such as the first Sunday of each month, people will start joining you and some will get saved and become part of your fellowship.
This is a good, non-threatening way of getting people in your church involved in witnessing. If you use a public address system, people will hear you better. This may require buying or renting a generator and a small PA system. Call the police department to find out if a permit is needed and, if so, how to get one.
The service needs to be adapted to meet the needs of unbelievers. A few brief testimonies of salvation and of God's work in the lives of believers are helpful. Avoid using Christian jargon such as "sanctified" and "washed in the blood" without explaining the terms. After the message, give people an opportunity to receive Christ or receive prayer for personal needs.
Keep the meeting short. We have a policy of not taking offerings in evangelistic gatherings, since it confirms the suspicions of many unbelievers that we are only "after people's money." After the meeting, you can serve refreshments, giving the Christians an opportunity to meet the new people and speak with them informally.
A second method involves planning a special inter-church worship rally in a local park. Twice a month we gather Christians from different local churches for a worship rally in a downtown park on Saturday afternoon. We get a permit, set up a large public address system, and have a music group lead in worship for about 30 minutes. This is followed by a ten-minute evangelistic message and an opportunity for people to come forward to receive salvation, prayer for personal needs, or to get a free New Testament.
During the worship time, the presence of the Holy Spirit is very strong and many unbelievers are drawn to listen. Some of the Christians are trained to counsel and pray with those who come forward. Other Christians are looking around for unbelievers who are being touched by God’s Spirit, so they can speak with them about Jesus. Still others are standing around the periphery of the park, giving out tracts, and inviting people to join the rally.
The third method we use involves a small outreach team ministering on a public sidewalk. Our street witnessing team will gather on a busy sidewalk, making sure to leave a pathway for people to walk by so we don't block the sidewalk. Usually, we start with a few worship songs, have a one minute testimony, worship for 5 more minutes, and have someone preach for 5 minutes, closing with an invitation for people to come forward and receive Christ.
Often, when our street witnessing team first gathers on a street, the whole team will worship on the street for about 15 minutes. Then, we will send most of the Christians in pairs to witness, leaving a few Christians at that spot to continue in worship. Occasionally, someone will preach a short message. This helps establish an atmosphere where the presence of God is felt, in contrast to the other things that are happening on the street. Workers who get spiritually drained while out on the street can join the worship group for a while and get refreshed.
Ministry News Update
On May 9-11, we joined our friends from New Hope Christian Fellowship in Sacramento in witnessing at the Whole Earth Festival at the University of California, Davis. Thousands of people attend this "New Age" Fair each year. Every kind of occult activity and new age religion has a booth at this fair. Why shouldn't Christians have one? Several years ago, Jews for Jesus tried to rent a booth, but their application was rejected. After threatening legal action, the University allowed them and several other Christian groups, including New Hope, to get booths. The New Hope booth featured free face-painting for children and a survey, which they used to start conversations about Jesus. Richard Paradise wrote a special "news tract" for the event, based upon current events. Paul and Noreen Coca ministered with music on Friday and Saturday.
Paul and Noreen minister at the Juvenile Hall in Modesto once a month. I joined them on June 8. They played music and I gave my testimony. Almost all the boys were extremely receptive to the gospel and several asked us to pray for them. If you are looking for an opportunity to minister to people who are eager to hear about Jesus, contact the chaplain at your local Juvenile Hall. Christians often complain that we cannot pray in the public schools. We can still preach and pray in Juvenile Halls and prisons, but few Christians take advantage of this opportunity.
Note: Outreaches are subject to change. Call (510) 531-5325 or 541-9903 (cell phone) to confirm outreaches or for more information.
Friday July 11, 18, 25 7:30-10 PM Witnessing in San Francisco neighborhoods. (Call for location).
Sat. July 12 12-1 PM Powell and Market St. 2:30-4:30 PM Union Square, Powell and Geary St.
Sat. July 19 12-1 PM Powell and Market St. 2:00-5:00 PM UN Plaza (7th St. and Market)
Sat. July 26 12:30-4:30 PM Berkeley Outreach. Telegraph and Haste St.
Ministry News and Needs
Thank you again for your prayers and financial support for this ministry. Several of you responded very generously to our need to replace our broken 1973 van. A friend from my church who buys vehicles at auctions was able to get us a 1999 Dodge 15 passenger (burgundy) van for our ministry. These vans cost well over $20,000 new. We bought it for $7000. It is a great blessing to us to have a reliable van to bring our workers and sound equipment to outreaches.
Please pray for those whom we have witnessed to and those who have written us this month in response to tracts, including Marty and Raphael (SF), Peter (Berkeley), Michael (Hayward) and Van (Oakland). Our Tape of the Month is Solomon's Porch: The Church in Public Places by Richard Paradise. Next month's newsletter should feature an outreach report on SOS-San Francisco. .
Yours in His love,
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