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Fiesta Hermosa: The Good, the Bad, and the Godly

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A plane flew overhead pulling a huge banner that said “WiCKED”. People walked about the Fiesta Hermosa holding brochures advertising the play “WiCKED! My daughter excitedly showed me some free sunscreen she had obtained. Emblazoned boldly on the little tube was the word: “WiCKED”.

Up Pier Avenue and in front of the shuttle bus stop, fearless Christians preached RiGHTEOUSNESS and RePENTANCE to crowds of people waiting for the bus to return them to their vehicles.
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“People like that should be banned from public places!” one man angrily protested.

“I’m the wicked one,” a woman proudly declared.

“These Hope Chapel people are crazy!” said another.

Indeed. These Hope Chapel people are crazy. Crazy for the Lord.

An evangelism booth was set up at the entrance to the fair and another at the exit, at the base of the Pier.
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God was at the beginning and the end.
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Over the course of three days, 100+ volunteers handed out an estimated 50,000 Gospel tracts…
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… shared their faith one-to one…
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…and preached in the open air.

Why this determination? Why bother with the hassles of being in a place where Christians are not wanted? And whoever heard of preaching at bus stops anyway? That’s just ridiculous.

150,000 people die everyday, the vast majority will end up in Hell because of their sin. Who will tell them why they will go there? People need to know that if they have broken just one of God’s 10 Commandments, that is sin. If they are found guilty on Judgment Day of lying just one time, or stealing just one thing—regardless of the item’s value—if they have ever misused God’s name one time, then God will see them as lying, thieving, blasphemers who will pay for their sin in Hell. Jesus said that when we look with lust on another person we have committed adultery; and the Bible calls hatred murder. Who will tell them this bad news? Who will tell them the Good News of God’s forgiveness? Who will plead for them to repent and trust in the Savior?

WE WILL!

I sat on a wall listening to evangelist Tatsuo Akimine preach to the people waiting in line for the shuttle bus—and the people sitting on the bus with their windows down. A man talked tough to his friend: “I thought you were gonna punch him… but I got your back.”
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“Go to Hell!” said another.

“I like Hindus. They don’t go around the world selling their religion.”

If we stood on that wall and told jokes people would respond enthusiastically, laugh, and yell for more. If we proclaimed the good news of the Dodgers, we’d have our fair share of applause. Heck, one of our team stood on the wall and rapped a message—and people loved him!
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But when the Gospel is preached, preached! that is when all Hell breaks loose, literally. The Gospel is offensive to those who are perishing. Jeremiah had the same problem when he preached. This is what he said:

“To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.” (Jer. 6:10)

We caution our team not to argue, scream, or screech at people. Just speak loud enough for people to hear you over the traffic. Be gracious, but preach the Word. When that happens all types of reactions will occur, mostly negative.

George Whitefield, an open air preacher from the 18th century who preached over 18,000 sermons said:
null “I was honored today with having a few stones, dirt, rotten eggs and pieces of dead cats thrown at me.”

I took the wall and spoke for about five minutes.
null I greeted the crowd by introducing a man born in Bhagdad and raised in Kuwait. I said, “This man didn’t have the right to preach freely in his countries, but we do have that freedom in America…” I ended the message with a plea for the people to turn to the Lord.

One lady calling herself “The Prophetess,” came right up to my face, grabbed the Gospel tracts out of my left hand…
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…then stuffed them down the front of my shirt.

I kept on preaching.
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A man mocked God by saying, “Something amazing… He made dinosaurs and duck-billed platypuses, too.”

I kept on preaching.
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One woman described me as “embarrassing, unprofessional and downright creepy.”

Others would cuss or say something blasphemous under the cover of anonymity. A well-meaning Christian lady advised us that “this was not the proper venue for this type of preaching.”

I agree that this was not a proper venue, but it certainly was an appropriate venue.
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This is where the lost were.

Charles Spurgeon, called the Prince of Preachers, said this:
null “To be laughed at is no great hardship to me. I can delight in scoffs and jeers. Caricatures, lampoons, and slanders are my glory. But that you should turn from your own mercy, this is my sorrow. Spit on me, but, oh, repent! Laugh at me, but, oh, believe in my Master! Make my body as the dirt of the streets, but damn not your own souls!”

Not all were angry though. A bus driver said “I think he’s cool,” in reponse to one of the preachers. “Some of the things he said are true.”

A woman sitting on the wall within earshot of the preacher said, “It’s freedom of speech. I don’t care. People don’t have to listen.”

And then the situation got better on the last day of the fair. Tatsuo Akimine wrote this about his preaching experience from the shuttle bus that took people to the fair:

I was amazed at the number of positive responses that I received after preaching over thirty times at the bus stop. Inevitably there would be those who would clap in appreciation and say, “God bless you! Thank you so much for what you guys are doing!” Others would give me the “thumbs up” sign with a huge grin, saying, “Right on! Keep up the good work!” I even had a woman hand me some money from the bus. When I told her, “No, thank you,” she insisted and said, “Please take it and get something to drink!”
null One man was trying to get the crowd to silence me, but another man standing just a few feet away intervened and rebuffed him by saying, “Let the guy speak!” Afterward, the majority stood there clapping as they boarded the bus. Some took photos, waving with beaming smiles. Children were encouraged by their parents to wave at me from the bus window. Even bus drivers listened with smiles and handshakes commenting, “Good word!”

One young man drove by and slowed down encouraging me to not give up as I sat down exhausted from the heat.

As long as people are perishing, we will “make the most of every opportunity,” even when we are misunderstood.

The 18th century preacher, John Wesley, would train up those who thought they were called to preach the Gospel.
null He would teach them, train them, then send them out. When they came back he would ask them two questions: “Did anyone get saved?” If they answered yes, he would keep them in his ministry. If they answered no, he would ask them another question: “Did anyone get mad?” If they answered no he would tell them, “You are not called to the ministry!”

A fair-goer near the Hermosa Beach pier summed it all up with this statement: “Why are you all doing this? You are really ruining the atmosphere.”
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“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.”
—2 Corinthians 2:14-17

(Read part 2 here!)

7 Comments

  1. The Word of God, the Holy Spirit, old/new testament heralds, leaders, teachers, pastors, preachers, martyrs, missionairies, evangelists…including the Hope Chapel team… an inspiring legacy of encouragement and testimony to the preaching of the gospel and subsequent building of the Kingdom! Glory to God for all that! Press on, faithful laborers!

  2. Thanks for your encouragement; not everyone feels as you do.

    We’ll press on, God willing.

    Please pray for us, Paul. We are experiencing a little, just a little, of what the early preachers experienced right now.

  3. Sorry to read that you are even hearing “concerns” from critics within your own congregation. That must be hard indeed. One should note, however, that in something like a relay race (for instance) it is easier to be a spectator and critique the runners than it is to be one of the runners.

    So I have a question for the bretheren spectator: what does ‘the coach’ have to say in all this? For the runners: I think it a good thing to rightfully hear the concern and advice (if any) from a spectator with grace and respect. Then take these concerns to ‘the coach’ and see what HE has to say about them. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 would be good for starters. If changes are needed, apply them!

    Then press on with the race where more jeers than cheers await you as you pass by the throngs of viewers along the track. Run with grace, faith, strength and courage. You have no idea who in the crowd will become inspired enough to join your team, tie on the shoes and be the one waiting in your lane with outstretched hand to clasp the baton of truth and run like the wind to continue the race when your part is over.

    Remember: forerunner Jonathan Edwards, in 1750, was elected out of his pulpit he preached from for 20 and more years in Northampton, Mass.. And, yet, God did not forsake him or his powerful ministry. He ran the race in the way God coached him to despite criticism from well meaning bretheren, despite the insults from the gathered crowds along the track, etc., etc.

    (I guess he must have been thankful to not have had the odd mortified felinular body part thrown his way to try and trip him up on the track as Whitefield had to endure!)

    Yes, press on! The prize awaits! And to our knees we will go.

  4. This is a comment that was left on another post, but is appropiate here, too.

    Anna Jackson Says:
    September 6th, 2007 at 8:59 pm e

    The very first time I tried to speak the gospel to people outdoors, a friend of mine was video taping. By speaking the gospel to crowds outdoors I was trying to follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and even Jesus himself. I was DESPERATELY trying to communicate that God’s wrath was real, and that His grace to us was truly AMAZING!

    I was honestly doing the best I could.

    However, when I watched the video tape I was horrifed to see myself “screeching.” I was just mortified.

    Everything I had been TRYING to say got “lost in the translation” so-to-speak… and it took me a year to get over this initial experience enough to make myself try again.

    Perhaps the person you saw at Hermosa was trying for the first time.

    Believe me, anyone who is trying to obey Christ by taking the gospel to people in an open air situation is certainly not “trying” to be offensive. The Bible says that gospel itself is offensive enough… I mean, honestly, who wants to hear that they’ve offended God to such a degree that they are heading to hell??!? That concept alone offends the socks off of just about everyone I know of. We like to think of ourselves as good people… all of us do. To see ourselves the way God sees us… as wicked law breakers… IS offensive. No open air preacher that I know of wants to add any more offensiveness to what’s already there.

    There is a very short article written on open air preaching that you might be interested in here: http://www.evangelismstuff.com/resources/intro.htm

    Also, just one other quick thing… In your post you said “…and their hearts are suddenly called to attend Hope Chapel…”

    Just so you know, it’s certainly not my intention, as an open air presenter of the gospel, to get anyone to go to any particular church.

    I’m not sure what the person you heard was saying, but it shouldn’t have been anything along the lines of “…come to Hope Chapel…”

    Instead it should have been more like “…repent and place your faith in Christ Jesus so that you can be saved from God’s wrath on Judgment day…” Doing that, does not require anyone to fellowship at Hope Chapel.

    God bless,
    Anna Jackson
    http://www.needGod.com

  5. Paul,

    So far no members from our concregation have been critical. The criticism comes from outside our concregation.

    Everyone here is, for the most part, on board!

  6. Good to know. Thank you. I inadvertantly mis-read Christina’s letter in the “fury” post on the 4th and left it to comment on it today without re-reading it to discover that she was someone who had attended your church in the past but is not a regular member of it.

    I would love to drop by and see you folks in action if I ever make it to California some day. If I started walking tomorrow, I should be able to saunter in around, oh…I don’t know…September 2009 ?

  7. Just wanted to let you know that there was fruit from your labor at the Hermosa Beach Pagan Fair, a young lady 24 years old – accepted Christ as her Lord and repented with real tears and sorrow, and has been coming to Hope Chapel, we spent about a half an hour so just chatting about her experience at another church where she felt she had had a feeling when she was there that she had become a christian, so after hearing that she had gotten the “feel good” message about Jesus, lacking any knowledge of Sin or Repentance from Sin and her need for Jesus Christ as her Savior, I continued to listen to her, then Ed came over and led her to the Lord…there was fruit that day! wanted to encourage you! God Bless you for your commitment to our God. Love Debra Flores

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