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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Anyone Called to Witness on the Streets? by Larry Rosenbaum

In my last message, I gave statistics that have shown, in a dramatic way, the spiritual decline that has taken place in the U.S., especially among youth who claim to be “born again” Christians. The majority of these youth, while claiming to be certain of going to Heaven because of a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, do not believe that Jesus lived a sinless life on this earth or that it is impossible to get to Heaven by good works. According to pollster George Barna, while 9% of Americans have a biblical worldview, less than ½ of 1% of Americans aged 18-23 have a biblical worldview.
This lack of a strong Biblical foundation in many Christians reflects itself in their attitudes towards evangelism. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Christian youth spend millions of dollars on “mission trips” that involve work projects and food distribution, but no mention of God’s plan of salvation. In the U.S., countless Christian youth are involved in giving out food to the homeless and similar “ministries” that don’t involve talking about Jesus. Many Christians, it seems, believe that people will be saved if we pray for them and live a good life in front of them. They think there is no need to share the gospel with unbelievers.
As our nation becomes increasingly hostile towards Christianity, Christians are looking for new methods of “evangelism” that will avoid any possibility of being rejected or persecuted. Perhaps, they think, if Jesus and the apostles had used our new “evangelism methods,” they would never have been persecuted. I often hear from Christians that not everyone is called to witness on the streets. Sometimes, however, I wonder if anyone is called or, rather, if anyone is responding to God’s call. I’m exaggerating, of course. There is a small group of Christians who faithfully witness with us. And there are other Christians witnessing throughout the country. But the laborers are indeed few, and they seem to get fewer each year.
Last April, in an attempt to recruit Christian youth to work with our ministry, I went on Facebook. Almost every day, I have been adding young Christians from Bible colleges and other Christian groups to be my “friend.” I now have over 7000 friends, most of whom are under 30. Occasionally, I let them know about our ministry house. Less than 10 have expressed interest, and, so far, none has moved in. I certainly did not expect all 7000 Christians to respond to my appeal. All we need are three or four Christian men to live in our house. But, so far, we have not found one. As far as I know, there is no other house like the one we have, where Christians can live with others who are interested in doing street evangelism. Most Christians who want to witness on the streets find it hard to get other Christians to join them. A few people may come one week; nobody the next week.
Eventually, street witnessing teams tend to die because they lack consistent involvement from Christians. By having a core group of Christians who are committed to witnessing on the streets regularly, and who hold one another accountable to this commitment, we have been able to maintain a regular street outreach for over 30 years in San Francisco. One reason that it is difficult to get Christians to do street evangelism is the hardness of many people’s hearts towards the gospel. If I could guarantee a Christian that every time he witnessed at least one person would be genuinely saved, we would have no lack of workers. There are witnessing “methods” that can get a lot of people to “say sinner’s prayers.” Unfortunately, when we try to follow-up on these people, we find that few who recite these prayers are truly converted. It is far more satisfying to us to witness to a person who really wants to get saved, than to someone who is hardened to the gospel message.
But are we witnessing to make ourselves happy or to obey God and reach the lost? It is hard for us to walk by faith and trust God to use our witness to work in people’s hearts. We want to see results, and we can’t see what God is doing in someone’s heart. I haven’t given up on Facebook. It is a great way to let thousands of Christian youth know about our ministry and encourage them to witness for Jesus. In the past, I would call churches and Bible colleges, and try to set up meetings to share about evangelism and about our ministry. Almost all would say no. A few times, I have had an opportunity to speak to Christians at a Bible college chapel. The Christians who attended, it seems, soon forgot about us. We saw no response from any of these meetings. With Facebook, I can invite almost every Christian in a Bible college to be my friend, and continue to share with them about our ministry, and about evangelism. But it seems that the task of finding a few Christian youth to join our ministry will be harder than I originally thought.
Please pray for us that God will give us guidance in this matter, and meet our need.
Larry Rosenbaum