Some 125 years ago, on Monday 3 October 1887, the annual meetings of the Open-Air Mission took place at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. The preacher that day was the greatly esteemed pastor of the church, Charles Spurgeon. The title he gave to his message was ‘Winning souls for Christ’.
We know that ultimately it is the Lord alone who gives the increase and yet we, as the people of God, have been given the enormous privilege of being involved in God’s great work in the world, that of building his church.
It is a great blessing to know we still live in a land where there is an abundance of opportunities for sharing the gospel message with others. The emphasis of OAM’s ministry continues to be on public proclamation and follow-up with personal conversations and directing individuals to local churches.
Over recent months, several of our city centre events have taken place where the mission evangelists have been working alongside local churches. At Easter, for example, a four-day witness took place in Swansea, where the team were hosted by Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Open air meetings were held during the afternoons and evenings. Many were spoken to about their need of a Saviour. Of particular note was Allan, who stopped to heckle one of the preachers. There was one question in particular that he demanded to know the answer to: ‘Why did my friend die of a drugs overdose?’
It was explained that the most important thing for him now was to realise that he too would die one day and therefore he needed know whether he was ready to meet God.
After the preacher had finished, Allan went over and apologised for having been aggressive in his tone. He then admitted something that is all too rare to hear these days, ‘I’m lost and I have an evil heart’.
He went on to say that he had read the Bible daily a few years before, when his dad had died, and was encouraged to go back to God’s Word and to seek the Lord with all his heart.
Later on in April, a week of witness took place in the centre of Birmingham. This is, of course, a cosmopolitan city and many conversations took place with those of other religions. One was with a young Muslim woman from Iran, who was interested to hear about the teachings of Christianity.
She was delighted to receive several booklets written by a converted Muslim, which addressed the big questions Muslims so often ask, such as ‘How can God have a Son?’ and ‘Hasn’t the Bible been changed?’ She was also keen to take an Ultimate Questions booklet in the Farsi language to give to her husband.
From time to time the Mission evangelists run training sessions with churches that are keen to reach out into their local town centres with the gospel.
Occasionally as well, OAM is asked to send a team to help churches overseas. Most recently, a team went out to the Czech Republic in early May, at the invitation of two reformed Baptist churches. This country is known to be the most atheistic in Europe.
In fact, this was illustrated by a student from France named Hugo, who was spoken to at one open air meeting. He said he not only didn’t believe in God, but had chosen to study in the Czech Republic because it was the most atheistic place he knew.
In the Lord’s kind providence, Hugo encountered a group of Christians, who were out on the streets looking for runaways from God. After a profitable conversation with him, Hugo received a leaflet entitled Ten reasons to believe there is a God.
When the mission’s evangelists are working in their local patches they are engaging with folk daily. It should amaze us that anyone ever stops, considering that none of those people were planning when they left home that morning to take time out to hear the Bible being preached. Yet we have the great joy of seeing this happen.
Sometimes people will listen to the preaching in large numbers, which is always thrilling to see and we praise God for it.
Those who are prepared to wait around to converse with the preacher personally, or to speak to one of the others on the team, will often stay for some considerable time to discuss things and listen further. This should convince us the church should be working outside our four walls, as well as inside them, in endeavouring to win souls for the Master.