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.
“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.
God was at the beginning and the end.
Over the course of three days, 100+ volunteers handed out an estimated 50,000 Gospel tracts…
… shared their faith one-to one…
…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?
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.”
“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!
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:
“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.
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…
…then stuffed them down the front of my shirt.
I kept on preaching.
A man mocked God by saying, “Something amazing… He made dinosaurs and duck-billed platypuses, too.”
I kept on preaching.
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.
This is where the lost were.
Charles Spurgeon, called the Prince of Preachers, said this:
“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!”
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.
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.”
“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