Taking creation evangelism to the streets!
Wayne Olling and Marc Kay share their experiences
‘Curious earth’ is the name of a pictorial display taken to street festivals in and around Sydney, Australia, by two ‘Six Day—Young Earth Creationists’. The display presents like a ‘Ripley’s—Believe It Or Not!’ but is unashamedly creationist in its content. The unusual display attracts a lot of interest.
Wayne Olling and Marc Kay conduct the ‘Curious Earth’ evangelism ministry. Wayne, who put the display together, explains:
‘Frustration developed within me that people showed little or no interest in church outreach activities such as bookstalls, child face painting and giveaways at public venues. We had the “Words of Life” but couldn’t make first base with the public to share this.’
‘I later saw a creationist ministry called “Bereshith”1 attract healthy interest at an indoor “Mind, Body, Spirit Festival” held once a year in Sydney so I thought, “Why not take something similar to street festivals?”’
‘I went through my back issues of Creation magazine, identified about 60 pictures I thought I could use, got copyright permission, reproduced the pictures, added captions, had the pictures laminated, bought display panels and then attached the pictures to the display panels with Velcro tape. There are five panels, each with its own theme—geological formations, fossils, archaeological artifacts, evolution fallacies, and dinosaurs—all presenting the case for a “young earth” appearing by special creation. After printing brochures I was ready to find where festivals were being conducted.’
Wayne explained the name ‘Curious Earth’: ‘A stereotype exists in the minds of many people that Christian faith is detached from the real world; it is nebulous, unreal, irrelevant to rocks and trees—the “real things”.’ This stereotype is a barrier to many engaging with the Church and, more importantly, knowing Jesus Christ.’
‘I aimed to engage the mind of people about a world in which they live, that they could see and touch, and that has a history and future consistent with events described in the Word of God. I wanted to get the interest of people so I could then introduce God.’
Wayne chose the name ‘Curious Earth’ because it was not ‘churchy’ and was likely to provoke interest. He remarked that it also fits the scenario in which we live—a wealth of observations supporting a case for a world specially created only thousands of years ago yet, curiously, most people hold to an evolutionary, long age idea of origins.
They have had a wonderful response to the display. Wayne explains: ‘I said I was looking for a means to engage with the public over the things of God and I’ve found it!’
Wayne and Marc have been operating for four years now at festivals that attract from 3,000 to over 60,000 attendees. They have met with scoffing from some hardened people who soon pick up that they are creationists. Most of these scoffers don’t stay around to defend their belief. Wayne commented, ‘I guess that says something about the strength of their case.’
However, the overwhelming response of those who stop by the display is one of genuine interest. Even if Wayne or Marc don’t get to talk to each person, the people can view the pictures and captions and receive a message which goes some way to ‘… demolish arguments and every pretension which sets itself up against the knowledge of God …’ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Then the availability of free brochures assists. Many people have said ‘This is fascinating!’ and want more information beyond what is on display. Wayne and Marc refer them to websites, particularly creation.com.
Wayne remarked, ‘I once hungered for people to speak to me about the Word of God. Now I have big numbers of people coming up to me saying in effect, “What do you have to say to me?” This is like manna from heaven!’
‘Dialogue can be so extended and exacting, when the person leaves I feel so drained that I need a small break before engaging with the next person. At the larger festivals I can go home tired and with a hoarse voice. However, the elevation of my spirit and the impetus for prayer to God far outweigh the physical discomforts.’
‘A tool for our time’
Not everyone is ready to receive what Wayne and Marc say and will not seek after the Lord. People have a variety of issues to be dealt with before they are ready to receive the Lord. Wayne says. ‘Only the Lord brings life; we have to recognise we are in the business of seed sowing and there is a lot of ground to be covered. There is even the prior task of soil preparation which I believe is the Lord’s work, but he may use us to remove obstructions such as evolutionary/long age views which prevent the seed reaching fertile soil.’
If it does nothing else, ‘Curious Earth’ presents a challenge to a person’s view of origins and that person is often willing to engage in further dialogue. Potential then exists to probe for whatever obstruction prevents the person inquiring further after the Lord.
Wayne: ‘I think that this type of Creation Evangelism is certainly a tool for our time. There are church stalls at festivals, but such is the retreated position of the many churches today that the strategy has been reduced to one or more activity—free child face painting; free water, tea or coffee; or postcards of the church building with an accompanying list of ministries. Some churches even have volunteers standing in the stream of passers-by thrusting into their hands leaflets advertising upcoming church events. The motivation to reach people is right, but the strategy is not that of our Lord Jesus or the Apostle Paul—they engaged the minds of people right where they were (e.g. Acts 17:16–34). Creation evangelism presents such an opportunity.’
Marc obviously agrees with Wayne on the value of this approach to evangelism: ‘I wouldn’t give up my weekends if I didn’t. A few years ago I finished a degree at Sydney University and the University of New South Wales. In those five years I didn’t see one Christian group give a single creationist lunchtime lecture, have a stand which addressed the evolution/creation debate, or engage people on the basis of their worldview—whether life and everything is the basis of chance chemistry or a Person who designed everything quickly and originally perfectly.
‘I did see one well-known churchman debate an atheist academic philosopher and proudly say to a huge audience, ‘I have no problem with big bangs and the like!’ and then go on to immediately condemn people on the basis of John 3:36.2 Afterwards, there were no queues of people waiting to be baptised.’
Marc thinks that many Christians have a communication problem: ‘One of the most disappointing aspects of my life on university campuses was the language used by Christians to invite people to their groups. It contrasts starkly with Jesus’ approach—He talked about weddings and the like. It was a cause of celebration and a real discovery that something great was going to be revealed, pearls and banquets and things. Jesus appealed to all and sundry in language they related to. On campuses, if you can get past the exclusivist language that only a Christian could understand, there is nothing there to entice you, that draws you to want to hear something that could make real sense of this world. What is presented today is often so contrived or gimmicky.’
‘Curious Earth’ starts at a point that we all have in common. Marc explains: ‘What better place to start with than introducing something we all share, the earth’s history. There aren’t too many people who don’t give a hoot about trees or rocks or animals, etc. You stick our display among the same old stalls at a fair, whether it’s selling candy or leather craft, etc., a stall that has pictures of anomalies in fossils, petrification, geological formations or archaeological artifacts, and people will engage you. We’ve had some massive conversations with people and got them to start thinking along the line that maybe the earth isn’t a product of blind evolutionary forces or that everything came into being over eons of time.’
And this results in many opportunities to share the Good News. Marc: ‘It doesn’t take very long for most people to work out that we aren’t just here to talk about rocks and things but the Person behind the rock, so to speak. We’ve had Scientologists—they had a stand next to us once—“click” and, ironically, I might add, ask us straight away, quicker than most Christians, “What’s the importance?” When these two Scientologists got it that a rapidly created, error-free universe meant that there was a God who loved us and didn’t want us to suffer, I could literally see the light come on in their eyes!’
On another occasion Marc engaged a real hardcore Marxist—Marc hadn’t mentioned anything ‘religious’ to him but only talked science. He said to Marc, ‘I’ve never met a Christian who speaks like this.’ He quickly understood the connection between brief, error-free creation and Christ being that Creator.
Wayne and Marc would like to see others take up this approach to ministry in the marketplace. Anyone wanting advice on getting started can contact Wayne and Marc via CMI.
Thank you Wayne and Marc. May the Lord bless your testimony in His Name.