“Street evangelism just doesn’t work here.”
That’s what Markus Feirer was told by members of the church he was training in evangelism. The International Mission Board missionary didn’t believe the church members were right.
Walking up and down the streets of the East Asian megacity, people were everywhere, yet they were so disconnected. Looking down at their phones while they boarded buses and metros. AirPods in ear as they crossed the street. No one stopping — all laser focused on reaching their next destination.
But there is a special space where the hustle and bustle of city life ceases – the parks.
Ponds, playgrounds and walking paths welcome people to slow down. Turtles and ducks coexist in their natural habitats. Trees shield the serenity of the park from tall buildings lining the background.
It’s an oasis, and there, away from the stresses of life for just a moment, sometimes people are more open for a stranger, with a welcoming smile and a Gospel tract, to start a conversation about what they believe and why.
Street evangelism isn’t always Feirer’s preferred method of sharing the Gospel. He loves building relationships and sharing the Gospel organically. Throughout his 24-year ministry with the IMB, the missionary, who claims that he doesn’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism, has found street evangelism effective.
Feirer and his wife Mary spend their days training churches in evangelism and discipleship in East Asia. The missionary couple also focuses on cross-cultural missions mobilization, sending national church members to unreached peoples in neighboring countries.
As the couple visited a large church for the area — around 300 members — they decided to investigate, with the church, if their theories about street evangelism were correct. They headed to a local park to spread the Good News. Only four or five showed up for the first evangelism excursion. The ones that did show were hesitant.
Feirer prayed before the group went out. He didn’t want to overwhelm these believers. He wanted this park evangelism trip to be a valuable experience — one they’d want to repeat over and over.
God answered his prayers.
Feirer approached a young man looking down at his phone.
“Has anyone ever told you that God loves you?” Feirer asked.
“No,” the young man responded.
“I have a story I’d like to tell you that shows how much God loves you,” Feirer said.
Taking a “Gospel Cube” — a cube that explains Christ’s sacrifice and how it reconciles sinners to God — the pair spoke for 10 minutes.
“Are you willing to make Christ your Savior and Lord?” Feirer asked.
“Yes,” the man responded.
Feirer prayed with the young man to receive Christ and left him with information about the church so he could plug in and grow in his newfound faith.
The five from the church watched in amazement from a distance. How could this foreigner do this? After about half an hour of having meaningful conversations with strangers with Feirer’s guidance, one of the church members decided it was time.
“Let’s break in groups here. Let’s try to do this now,” the member said. They went out, two-by-two, into the park and shared the Gospel, cold turkey — something they’d never known was possible.
It’s been two years since this training. But still, week in and week out, the church is faithful to go share the Gospel.
One member, a chef, has dedicated herself to this practice. Each week, when the church goes out, they end in a time of debrief. The street evangelists have learned to not even wait for her to join them, because she’s always out late. Whether she’s just handing out Gospel tracts or presenting the Gospel, this member is excited about the work and effective in what she does.
Because they stepped out, even while doubting, and tried a new approach to evangelism, this East Asian church is impacting its community with the Gospel, every Thursday, like clockwork. They know they’ll be rejected at times but what joy they do have when someone hears and accepts the message!
“It’s become part of their DNA. I give glory to God for that,” Feirer said.
Some names have been changed for security purposes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Myriah Snyder is senior writer/editor for the IMB.