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Cross Purposes

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We received delivery of our new wooden cross last week. Emblazoned with the words “Are you ready” (we forgot the question mark), this prop elicits all types of responses. The purpose of this cross is to just hold it and engage whoever is interested in talking with us about it. 

I encouraged 17-year-old Peter Johnson (our youngest teenage open air preacher) to try it out on the campus of El Camino College the day after we got it. Here’s his report:

I got out of my first class at 10 ’till nine on Friday morning.  I have my cross folded up so I can carry it.  I decide to start with prayer.  God always seems to do more after I pray, but of course that’s just a coincidence. 

I took the cross out into the center of campus and held it up so that passersby could read the words “Are you ready” with my right hand while passing out gospel tracts with the left. A construction worker saw the cross and scoffed, “Are you ready? I’m ready to break that cross over that guy’s head.” 

Next, a Catholic girl walked up and asked what the words “Are you ready” meant.  I explained how we need to be ready for eternity and was able to convince her that religion does not save; only through humble trust in the blood of Christ are we saved. 

After her, a “Christian” guy who had never heard of the term “born-again” was encouraged to examine himself and get back in the Word.

Another student walked past and mocked, “I’m converted. I used to be pagan, but now I’m a Satanist.”  “Are you ready?” I replied. 

I was privileged to have a few short conversations with more students and was even offered some brief words of encouragement by fellow Christians as well as a few others who blessed me with more curses.  Even three atheists came by to argue! It was truly amazing how the cross elicited so many different reactions.

The highlight of that day was when a guy came up from behind me, wanting to talk. I took him through the law, Judgment Day, God’s justice and holiness, Hell, then the Gospel. He seemed very humble and open, asking me if he could repent anytime. “Yes,” I answered.

He bowed his head to pray. 

“Wait, wait,” I said, “do you even understand what repentance is?” After I was assured he knew what he was doing, he prayed and then I prayed for him. By that time there were seven other Christians gathered around to observe.

I was very excited to hear Peter’s report on his first successful experience with the cross; so much so, that I couldn’t wait to try it out this very afternoon at El Camino College. Knowing from past experience that whatever bad things can happen—will happen when I try something out—I braced myself, and picked up the cross. (Click to see all the horrible things that happened to me at the Chinatown parade earlier this year.) 

I stood straight-laced and straight-faced setting my face like flint toward the oncoming students. I prayed silently, ready for anything.

This is what happened:

Nothing.

No reactions whatsoever. I stood for a half  hour and was mostly ignored. No one batted an eye. Or screamed. Or disagreed. No one threw anything. Not even a pie.

Wait. There was one comment. A lady walked by and said, “I’m ready.” That’s it.

The shame of the cross? There was none.

This time.

17 Comments

  1. Awesome! Glad to see you carrying a cross Pastor Steve!!

  2. That is because you weren’t holding it up, Steve! You can’t use it as a prop. You have to hold it up for the world to see. Don’t get lazy on us! 😛

  3. This is AWESOME!!! Did John makes these for you?! Dennis said one day that will be us!! hahaha Way to go!

  4. I’m not sure if it’s not holding UP the cross. It could be that particular time was slow. On a video on youtube, Paul Latour’s wife, Kim, stands outside a clinic (or somewhere) where people are getting the H1N1 vaccine and for 3 hours she had person after person speak with her and it seems the cross never goes higher than her waist. It’s called “Kim’s first witness H1N1” and while it doesn’t have audio of her conversations, it has the pictures/video of the passersby set to very nice music. Also, a video, “It’s not about the numbers” is very encouraging regarding standing with the cross and seemingly seeing nothing happen. (Or check out Paul’s blog http://www.thewordstreetjournal.com — it’s listed under Evangelistic Friends on this website)

    I have not had anyone approach me yet when I have gone out with the cross, but honestly, when I have gone out, it hasn’t been places where there is much foot traffic. Of course, in my small town, there isn’t much foot traffic anywhere. 🙂 I do know that at a particular time of day, in less than 3 minutes a hundred+ cars drve by in one direction. I kind of lose track after that.

    Steve . . . maybe the “are you ready” screams SIGN!! to you . . . maybe that’s it!! We know how you love signs . . .

  5. Wow, this was the first time I have read that you did not get yelled at or any of the other many—- and I say many other things that have happend to you. Mabie next time stand on a box?

  6. That’s awesome… way to go Peter, it sounds like God used you in a big way by this step of obedience. Glory to God!

    Bring the cross to the HB Pier the next time you guys go there and walk down the pier with it and hand out tracts. You’ll be amazed at how many people want to stop and talk!

  7. I just finished reading the pictures about Peter holding the cross. Yeah and Amen.

    Peter, how do you hold the cross in one hand and pass out tracts with the other. Please, can you teach me this advanced move. I once saw my brother eating a hamberger and passing out MDBs, but, large 100 bills!! That really is an advanced evangelistic move and should not be attempted by those not licensed to do so. Oh, I forgot, Jesus said “Go…”

  8. Peter, you are a huge encouragement to me and I’m proud to be your friend!

  9. Angel does have a point, Steve.

    There have been times when I have taken out the cross and set it up on an easel. Then, I sit next to the cross in a lawn chair and read my Bible. I’ve noticed that I receive far fewer reactions, positive or negative, when I am not holding the cross.

    There is just something about a man or woman standing and holding the cross that draws more reaction. It’s as if the cross is more of an offense when someone is holding it than when they are standing or sitting next to it, or leaning against it. It’s as if lifting the cross is telling the world, “Here I stand. I stand for Jesus Christ. Are you ready?”

    Certainly there is nothing scientific about my observations. And I’m not trying to over-spiritualize holding the cross. But there is a noticeable difference when I stand and lift the cross.

    I would also like to suggest something else, Steve. You and I both know that our attitude, whether verbal or non-verbal, has an effect on not only how we act, but also how people ask toward us. We both encourage the people we are blessed to train and disciple to be friendly and outgoing, to always express an air of approachability.

    Look closely at the pictures in your post. I see a difference between you and Peter. You can see it on your faces, posture, and appearance.

    You are wearing very dark sunglasses (an open-air “no-no”). Peter is not. Peter appears demonstrative, even excited to be doing what he was doing. You, on the other hand my brother, do not. Peter is smiling in every picture. You, my dear friend, are not.

    I know how skeptical you are of signs and banners. On many levels, I share the same skepticism. We so want to avoid becoming the parody of evangelism. But instead of worrying about looking like what is wrong with street evangelism, we ought not give up the ground to those who aren’t doing evangelism in a biblical and loving way. We wouldn’t dream of not open-air preaching because there are heretics climbing atop boxes. We wouldn’t dream of not handing out tracts because the JW’s hand out literature. We shouldn’t avoid white shirts, ties, or bicycles because Mormon missionaries utilize these things. (Of course, I would not recommend wearing a name badge in conjunction with the white shirt and tie while riding a bicycle–just in case.)

    Is it possible (and I’m just asking) your demeanor might have made you less approachable that day? I remember when you and I tried “herding evangelism” on the campus of USC. Your smile brightened an already sunny day. We had a blast. I don’t see that same level of excitement in the pictures of you, in this post.

    Sometimes, when I’m holding the cross, I can get lost in my thoughts and prayers and forget that I am standing on street corner for the world to see. I have to make a conscious effort to keep a genuine (not plastic) smile on my face. Everyone who waves at me (whether with five fingers or one) gets a wave back from me. Everyone who approaches the corner, whether or not they receive a tract or I engage them in conversation, receives a friendly “hello.” I already look strange standing out there. So I want to do what I can to let people know that I’m friendly, approachable, and of sound mind (for the most part). 🙂

    Just some unsolicited (and friendly) observations and advice from a brother who loves you.

  10. Angel and Tony:

    Thanks for the great advice!

    The photos were taken in the first minutes that I was holding the cross, when I was pretty apprehensive. After about 10-15 minutes, I took off my glasses, smiled, and held the cross on high (notice the last image of the article), and I will continue the practice of smiling, eyeballs visible, with the Cross of Christ held high.

    Still, there was no reaction. None, no matter how much I smiled. Bummer.

    I’m looking forward to the next time.

  11. Peter: I don’t even know you and you are an encourgement to me. I praise God for your obedience and witness.

    Steve: Maybe the lack of response you experienced has something to do with the fact that you, unlike Peter, don’t quite look 17 years old. (I know your pain, brother.) Peter would appear to be more of a peer to those on campus and, therefore, more approachable. That’s life, man!

    Nonetheless, great witness! BOTH of you!

  12. HI Peter, I always new you and your brother will be doing great things.. its great knowing that this is only a beginning for you both and that God has great things in store for you. Say hi to your family for me I miss them…

  13. Hey Peter – way to go! What an encouragement to see you out there carrying your cross and even handing out tracts at the same time? I have to agree with Richard that is a very advanced technique. Keep it up and to God the glory!

  14. Way to go Peter! I am blessed to know Peter and call him a friend and fellow servant of Christ and evangelist with the Hope Chapel team. I agree with Paul, Peter is seen as a peer of the students, and unfortunately Steve & I are not, therefore probably seen as more approachable by other students. Also agree with Richard, pretty fancy hand-work. I’m not sure I’m that advanced in tracting techniques. Maybe I need to take “Sharing Your Faith Without Fear” again.

  15. That’s a great report, guys ! I feel so blessed just to know you two – I think Tony’s advice is good – may not have made a difference in this particular case. And note to Richard, it’s “hamBURGER” — but knowing where you went to HS, it makes sense.

  16. Steve, remember that we never know how God is going to use what we do. We don’t know what thoughts or conversations resulted from seeing you and the cross that day.

    Not too long ago we had planned to read the Sermon on the Mount in front of the largest Hindu temple in the US. The day came and it was dark and raining. One of the trio asked if we should still do it since no one was going to hear. I said let’s do it and we started. Half way through, a man stopped his car next to us and said if we do it again he would like to join us. I wondered how many other people drove by and what they where thinking.

  17. Hi Steve, Last weekend was my first time out on the streets holding the cross and I really liked it too. I am so encouraged by you two out in CA doing the same thing for the first time. I thank you for your testimonies and all the encouragement you are receiving in response from the brethren. I am encourage too! Even though we are 2000+ miles apart it is so cool knowing when I am out there I will know that even more are out there and we are all standing for Christ together. Thank you brothers even though I don’t know Peter I know we are related in Christ. God bless you guys.

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