This article is the second in a two-part series. You can read P1, HERE.
Abby approached me as I stood on the corner, with my cross. The first thing she said to me served as a reminder of the importance of consistency. Abby told me she had previously seen me on street corners with my cross. Seeing me often compelled her to stop and talk to me.
The Importance of Consistency
I alternate my crosswalking time between four or five major intersections in my city. I try to hit these intersections at about the same time of day. I also have spent time at other intersections to try to be seen in as many places in the city as possible. I’m usually at an intersection for no less than an hour–sometimes as long as 3-4 hours. There are days when I will spend time at multiple intersections.
Not only are people seeing me, but I’m seeing them. Meaning: I’m starting to remember and recognize cars and faces. It’s as if I’m establishing a rapport with motorists. I think it has gotten to the point that people in my community expect to see me on the streets. This includes first responders.
There have been multiple instances of motorists who, while stopped at a light, have rolled down their windows to thank me for being there. Some have encouraged me to “keep up the good work” or have simply asked what church I’m with. Others have simply smiled and said, “God bless you!”
Look; it’s not all flowers and candy. There are plenty of people who shake their heads or wave a middle finger. Rarely a trip to a street corner goes by without at least one person–man or woman, young or old–yelling, “Hail Satan!!” (I’ve started using a new response for this particular heckle. I may write about it, soon.) And occasionally someone will shout, “Get a job!” However, the vast majority of people who make some kind of verbal or physical gesture are friendly.
With increasing frequency, people I meet while crosswalking–people like Abby–are telling me that they’ve seen me on the streets prior to stopping and talking to me. More often people are telling me that repeatedly seeing me on the streets is what, in part, compelled them to stop and talk. I believe this speaks to the importance of consistency in street/public evangelistic ministry.
The Fruit of Consistency
I’ve experienced the fruit of consistency during my 20 years of full-time ministry.
I experienced the fruit of consistency during my time as a chaplain for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. My deputies grew to expect to see me in a patrol car, at the station, in the locker room, at special events, and, when tragedy struck, in their homes and hospital rooms.
I’ve experienced the fruit of consistency in the context of open-air ministry. There was a time during which I would be at the North Hollywood Metro Station every Tuesday morning, at 6:00 AM. Morning commuters would arrive at the station and be greeted by the preaching of the gospel and the distribution of gospel tracts and Bibles.
A couple of people started arriving early for their bus so they could hear the preaching. There were some mornings when a few Christians would gather, Bibles in hand, to sit and listen to the preaching of God’s Word.
Security guards who initially called the police each time they saw me would eventually become friends. One security guard, in particular, went from calling the police on me to protecting me from violent hecklers.
I’ve experienced the fruit of consistency outside of abortuaries–particularly at the first abortuary where I ministered. I remember my first day there. I was alone and nervous. A short, older Hispanic man by the name of “Juan” served as the security guard. Our first meeting was not a pleasant one. He mocked me. He heckled me. He called the police.
Yet over time, Juan and I became friends. Yes, I encouraged him with regularity to quit his job. And yes, there were still times when he called the police–but only at the orders of the abortuary staff. But by the time I left Southern California for Iowa, Juan and I would greet each other with a hug. If there was a disturbance inside the abortuary waiting room, or if someone left without killing their baby, Juan would let us know. He would also let me know whether or not I was preaching loud enough to be heard in the waiting room.
I’ve experienced the fruit of consistency on the campus of the University of Iowa. While the campus is 50+ miles from home, and I wish I could be out there more often, when classes are in session I try to be on campus once or twice a week.
Over the last few years, I’ve established some wonderful relationships with students–saved and unsaved. I’ve enjoyed special times of fellowship with a few Christian students. One has invited me to his wedding. I’ve established a friendship with at least one professing atheist student. We’ve spent hours together in friendly conversation. We always greet each other with a hug.
I’ve had unsaved students approach me on campus and thank me for being there and for not being like some of the preachers who visit the campus–people like the infamous “Brother Jed.” One morning a professing atheist student approached me and asked, “Is everyone treating you okay, today?” He was genuinely concerned about my well-being. His kindness led to a wonderful gospel conversation.
In more than three years of ministry on the campus, I’ve not had a single negative interaction with campus police or staff. I know that could change tomorrow. But that’s the way it’s been thus far.
I credit God for the fruit that has come from consistency in ministry. It’s a result of his gracious providence in my life and ministry that has allowed the fruit of consistency to be tangible.
What I’m Not Saying
Consistency: being at the same places at the same time, doing the same things will bear fruit. But here’s what I’m not saying.
I’m not saying you have to be in full-time ministry to establish consistency in ministry or to see that consistency bear fruit.
I readily admit that it is easier for someone like me, a full-time evangelist sent out by his church to do the work of the ministry, to be consistent in that endeavor. However, you can be consistent in your evangelism efforts, too, even if you are holding down a 40-hour-a-week job; even if you are a full-time mom or a full-time student.
You can have a very busy life and still engage in consistent, public evangelism.
All you have to do (picture air quotes, here; I know it will take some work) is:
- Determine the type of evangelism in which you want to engage.
- Determine where you want to engage in your preferred evangelistic ministry.
- Some examples: college/university campus, bus station, parking lot, street corner, outdoor or indoor mall, public park, abortuary.
- Determine the day of the week and the time of day you will engage in evangelistic ministry.
- It’s important you pick a day and time that will be the easiest for establishing consistency. Don’t pick a day or time you know will tend toward frequent cancellations of ministry.
- Start with a short window of time–maybe just an hour. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Determine to be consistent.
- Ask your pastors, friends, and family to provide you with encouragement and accountability.
- Don’t be driven by results, but rather be driven by love for God, love for people, and faithfulness to the task.
- Don’t concern yourself with how many tracts you distribute, or how many people you talk to, or how many times you preach (if you are a man called to do so by your pastors).
- Don’t compare your ministry to anyone else’s. God entrusts some of his people with ten talents; some with five; some with one.
I believe one of the reasons I met Abby yesterday, one of the reasons why, in God’s providence, I was allowed to communicate the gospel to her, is God has given me an increasing burden for even more consistency in the evangelistic ministry to which He (as affirmed by my pastors) has called me. God is allowing the work to bear fruit. I pray that God, in His divine providence, will allow a bountiful harvest.