Creation among the crowds
As Secretary of The Open-Air Mission in the UK, it is essential to me that the Bible is our supreme authority for everything we preach. Since 1853 the focus of the Mission has been to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the unchurched masses of our land. Our desire has remained unchanged—we want to point people to His glorious person and peerless work. But one problem we increasingly face today is that there are issues abounding which hinder people from coming to that focus. On a daily basis our 15 full-time evangelists, working in various places around the UK, are plied with searching questions.
Ready to answer their questions?
In one respect, we’re glad because it at least indicates that people are thinking about the issues and want answers. But what we notice about those questions is that whether they are about suffering or science, ape-men or aliens, the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection, they all, without exception, come back to one thing—the authority of the Bible. Can the Bible really be trusted in what it teaches about these things? That question lies behind all of the others.
In Psalm 119:42 we read, “So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your Word.” If the Bible really is God’s book then we should trust it from cover to cover. The main opposition to the Gospel today is coming from certain academics who are doing all they can to cast doubt on the reliability of God’s Word. These people are, in effect, putting forward their own authority as being something far superior to that found in the Bible. They are aggressively atheistic in their convictions and, to be honest, they are having a bit of a field day. They have successfully wooed the media and their worldview now dominates every area of public life.
Origins is no side-issue!
Tragically, some Christians would have us believe that issues relating to creation/evolution and the like should not be a trouble to us. I couldn’t disagree more! Let me illustrate why with just two recent examples.
Firstly, a few weeks ago we received the following email into the Mission office: ‘To whom it may concern at The Open-Air Mission: Will you please stop sending out unsolicited junk-mail. I refer to your leaflet entitled, ‘Will you consider Jesus?’ You deluded superstitious people should try to read, ‘The Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin and ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins. Jesus Christ belongs to the age of ignorance, the time before 1859.’
For this individual, the Bible is ruled out of court on the say-so of these two particular ‘scientists’. But his is not an isolated case. For so many others too, the Gospel is not even worth considering as they travel along life’s path, and all because the huge boulder of evolution stands in their way, dominating the view before them.
About the Open-Air Mission
In the OAM, we endeavour to be ‘Bible-based’ in everything we believe and in everything we do. We are convinced that the Bible, from beginning to end is God’s holy Word, and our supreme authority. If we dare to side-step the Scriptures then, in effect, we are guilty of side-stepping the Almighty Himself.
The Bible gives us a clear mandate for the work we are seeking to do as a Mission. So staying in the church and waiting for unbelievers to come to us is not an option. Church has become an alien place for so many in our generation. As Christians we have all been commanded over and over again to ‘go’ with the Gospel. To go to people wherever they may be, and tell them the good news of the grace of God in Jesus Christ! The Lord Himself, along with the Apostles, is our pattern for doing this. “So they went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12). Doing this same work today ought to be of paramount importance for the church of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is our authority for what we do when we go. The Lord has not left us in the dark about how we should evangelize. Engaging with people through preaching and personal conversation are the two main thrusts of our strategy. It is noteworthy that preaching as a means of communicating God’s Word is given an exalted place in the scriptures, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” the Apostle Paul asks.
‘But they won’t listen to preaching today!’ is what we often hear. Actually, people will still listen to Christ-centred preaching. We see it every day. Perhaps not in huge numbers, but nevertheless there are those who do stop from the business of their day and give a hearing to a man with a message.
The Lord told the prophet Ezekiel that even if people wouldn’t listen, they still needed to be told the truth of God (See Ezekiel 3:11).
Secondly, a couple of months ago I was visiting one of our evangelists for the day and we went into Worcester city centre to share the Gospel. During the early afternoon a young Christian man rather rudely interrupted me as I was seeking to answer the question of a 16-year old boy on his lunch-break—he had stopped to ask about the age of the earth. This well-meaning Christian tried to say that I risked putting this boy off the Gospel by raising the issue. He then suggested to the enquirer that it didn’t matter about the beginning of time; he just needed to believe in Jesus.
I told him that, in the first place, I hadn’t raised the issue. In the second place, I said that it was because this boy thought that the Bible was untrustworthy on the subject of the earth’s age that he was already put off considering Jesus Christ. The young Christian moved away and allowed me to try and pick up the pieces. The teenager had many other questions relating to evolution and the Bible and I was pleased that he received from me the booklet called ‘Evolution: Fact or Fiction?’ by John Blanchard, before having to return to school.
Seeing that the young Christian man was still loitering, I went and gently challenged him to take the Bible as it is written and not to compromise on what it plainly teaches about the beginning of the world. I directed him to Matthew 19:4,5 where the Lord Jesus spoke of Adam and Eve living at the beginning of time, not millions of years afterwards. He was amazed to hear of this and assured me that he would go home and read it for himself.
To suggest that evolution doesn’t really matter where evangelism is concerned is a mistake of massive proportions! Why? Well, it surely comes down to this: if Joe Public can’t believe the beginning of the Bible, why should he believe any of the Bible? If it isn’t really true that, “as in Adam all die”, why should he believe the truth that, “even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22)? Evolution fits into the Bible like a square peg fits into a round hole—it doesn’t! And we don’t need to try and make it fit. We need instead to be like the psalmist who trusted in what the Word of God says—who stood on that Word, and in so doing had answers to the questions of his generation. Praise God that He has given us answers too, ones that lead to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!