I gave John the Evangelist a crash course in Biblical evangelism, using the 10 Commandments to bring knowledge of sin, and teaching him about the necessity of warning people of the impending Day of Judgment and Hell. Then I demonstrated that the Good News of Jesus Christ would really be good news only after people hear the bad news of their present sinful condition. He ate it up.
I also gave him the Curved Illusion Tracts that help to break the ice and start spiritual conversations with strangers. When you hold them side by side one looks larger than the other until you switch them, then the other one looks larger. I explained that you start a conversation by saying that you can’t always believe what you see; and you can’t always believe what you hear either. Shawn loved the tracts. Then I threw in a million-dollar bill for good measure which he loved even more!
We took a tour of The Heavenly Temple, a place where the emperors of old would go to pray for a bumper crop during their harvest season. There’s a beautiful park as well and hundreds of Chinese gather to enjoy the day, listening to music from itinerant minstrels, playing badminton, or flying kites. I poked John and said that this would be a good place to try out the Curved Illusion Tracts since we had this new found freedom to preach the Gospel in China. Within minutes he had a crowd of twenty people gathered around to see the illusion. John followed up the trick by showing the American million-dollar bill; after that he preached his first Biblical Gospel message using the Ten Commandments, Judgment Day and Hell while I coached him from the side. Predictably, a woman argued that she wasn’t a bad person, (people of all ethnicities want to justify themselves), but John stood his ground. We were next to some musicians and mysteriously, the volume increased by several decibels just as John was bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“Hey, John!” I called out. “Let’s move on down; I think we’re undergoing some spiritual interference.” Everyone moved down and he then led four people to Christ, praying for them all right in the open.
Excited, I called our house church leader and told him the good news and asked if we could bring these new converts to his house for fellowship. He cautioned that it wasn’t safe, and that they needed to go to a government approved “Three-Self Church.” This was my first indication that maybe things weren’t as free as I thought.
Elated over our good fortune over four new converts, we then visited the Heavenly Temple. John showed me the twelve pillars that surrounded the temple, a testimony perhaps from the 3rd century of God’s presence, reminding this nation of the pillars of the Christian church, the twelve original Apostles.
Because of a dinner appointment with the house church and the rest of the team we headed back to the mini-van, but not before I played a little badminton with one of the locals. I let them win.
At dinner, the house church leader called me over; he looked serious. “Tell me what happened today…” he said unsmiling.
With less enthusiasm, I explained the incredible events of the day while the leader listened intently. I sensed that not all was well. “It’s not safe in China to witness openly,” he explained graciously and patiently. You never know who could have been in those crowds. There is lots of security at the Heavenly Temple. God blessed you today.”
I reflected on the man who closed and locked the huge doors in the Catholic Church for our protection.
“A few years ago, a man who started one of our orphanages went to the ‘The English Corner’ of one of Beijing’s Universities and spoke there for about three hours. The government allows you to say anything you want at the ‘English Corner’ as long as you don’t talk about religion. So he spoke on and on enjoying his opportunity to speak freely in China. The Public Security Bureau found out who he was and now follows him every time he’s in China. In fact, when he comes here and checks his email, he always finds a message from the government saying, ‘Welcome to China.’ You have to be very careful here. If you share your faith, you have to do it privately, in a corner or sitting next to someone. God really blessed you today.”
I thought about the loud music suddenly playing as John spoke near The Heavenly Temple. That wasn’t a spiritual disturbance; it was God protecting us despite our naiveté. He caused the music to blare so we wouldn’t be overheard. I also remember seeing all the security personnel behind a large hedge, goofing off and talking. God kept them away as we shared Christ with the locals.
I was bummed. At that point I decided to use my efforts to strengthen the house church, to teach them to evangelize. John was zealous and I would invest in him. It was an illusion, a trick, a myth to think that it was safe to bring Christ to a Godless nation without hindrance.
It’s never safe to stand for Jesus.