Is there still a place for street evangelism today? A late convert to Christianity shares his experiences
by Janice Tai // July 15, 2022, 1:16 pm
“Just as each country sends its diplomats and ambassadors out, we remember that we are Christ’s ambassadors out there," says Jeremiah Lee, who together with a group from A Soul A Day, walks East Coast Park regularly, ready to share the Gospel with those who are interested. All photos courtesy of Jeremiah Lee.
Jeremiah Lee used to cut a strange figure at East Coast Park and Bedok Central.
He was not at the beach to walk or run. Instead, he relied on a walking stick for support as he slowly made his way to talk to strangers.
At Bedok Central, Jeremiah would make his way to the benches – not for a breather – but to chit chat with the elderly seated there.
Up to three times a week before the onset of the pandemic, the 51-year-old, who used to walk with difficulty due to a cervical spinal cord injury, would be out on the streets sharing the Gospel with people he had just met.
What would compel this consultant, who himself took some four decades to accept Christ, to expend time and energy on street evangelism every week?
The tale behind what got him started is stranger still.
The spirit “bubbling” and a divine sign
It was September 1, 2016, and Jeremiah had made his way to a hotel to meet a friend at night.
He had not seen this friend, who was based overseas, for some time, and was looking forward to catching up with him.
Yet half an hour after seeing his friend, Jeremiah felt a strong urge to return home.
Feeling bad that he felt this way at such a long-awaited meeting, Jeremiah stayed back till 11.30pm before calling a cab to head home.
He told the taxi driver how God had delivered him from smoking and had given him renewed life.
Though he was very tired, he somehow started chatting with the taxi driver and shared his unusual feeling of wanting to head home early.
The taxi driver asked him why he had wanted to go home.
Jeremiah thought about it, and realised that it was because he wanted to read his Bible.
Afraid of sounding too religious, Jeremiah kept quiet and did not reply.
Yet within him, a bubbling began in his spirit and he felt he really needed to tell the taxi driver the reason.
The bubbling continued until he could not bear it. Finally, he blurted out the reason and began having a conversation with the taxi driver about how God delivered him from smoking and gave him renewed life.
The more Jeremiah talked, the more excited he became.
The taxi driver also responded positively and listened to him with interest.
The taxi’s headlights beamed straight onto the back of the van, revealing the words: Jesus Saves.
As Jeremiah continued sharing about the goodness of God, he found himself looking for the right words.
Suddenly, while the taxi was exiting the expressway and turning into Bedok North Road, a white van appeared out of the blue.
The taxi’s headlights beamed straight onto the back of the van, revealing the words: Jesus Saves.
Jeremiah saw the two words and said animatedly: “Jesus saves! Jesus saves! That is what I mean.”
He admitted wryly: “In my enthusiasm, I probably sounded a bit nutty then.”
The cab driver stopped the taxi at a bus stop and turned around to look at him.
Afraid of his response and not knowing how to continue the conversation, Jeremiah awkwardly bid him farewell.
Be ready, in and out of season
The moment he closed the cab door, he was reminded of a verse that had caught his attention that very morning in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season.”
He felt like a fool as he had wasted a good opportunity to share the Gospel.
That year, Jeremiah was motivated to finish reading the entire Bible again. This time, he read it not just for himself, but with the intention of equipping himself to share the Good News with others.
Once again, Jeremiah saw the words “Jesus Saves” on its back.
He also turned to other resources, such as The Living Waters Podcast, to train and arm himself with practical tools to proclaim the Gospel.
One month after that eventful cab ride, Jeremiah hopped into another taxi to head to a meeting.
In the cab, he noticed that the dashboard was decked with many religious idols.
As the taxi drove on, Jeremiah felt the same “bubbling” of the spirit within him.
“Ah God no, no, no, I cannot talk about You. It’s going to be very difficult,” Jeremiah prayed to God in quiet protest as he knew God was prompting him to share the Good News.
As he was struggling and wrestling with God, the cab slowed down as it approached the traffic light junction before Bethesda Cathedral. All of a sudden, a white van turned into the lane in front of his taxi and once again, Jeremiah saw the words “Jesus Saves” on its back.
Recognising that God was giving him a second chance, Jeremiah mustered up his courage to talk to the taxi driver about God.
This time, he was better prepared and knew how to share the Gospel. Despite Jeremiah’s fears, the driver listened to him attentively.
From then on, Jeremiah found himself having many opportunities to share the Gospel “in season and out of season” with taxi drivers, sales persons and any other person who crossed his path.
His cell leader linked him up with a pastor from Bethesda (Bedok-Tampines) Church who further sent him for an Evangelism Explosion course and connected him with a group of church members who head out for street evangelism every week.
Jeremiah recalled his first experience with street evangelism at Bedok Central in 2018.
“I wasn’t afraid, worried or nervous. They paired me up with someone and the moment I saw how my partner did it, something clicked and I was also able to do it,” said Jeremiah.
“I was surprised and amazed that people could believe in God just by a short sharing.”
The following week, he went back to Bedok Central for street evangelism again and, this time, he had his first convert for Jesus – a foreigner from India.
“I was surprised and amazed that people could believe in God just by a short sharing. It’s hard for me to believe that I can be used as a vessel when I myself resisted Him for 40 years,” said Jeremiah.
Hungry for more, he also joined another street evangelism group called A Soul A Day, which has multiple meeting points islandwide. He would join them at East Coast Park every week.
Jeremiah shares with Salt&Light the steps to take when it comes to street evangelism, including some do’s and don’ts when attempting outreach.
#1: Pray before, during and after outreach
Citing Ephesians 6:12 which says our struggles is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”, it is crucial to prepare by praying beforehand.
Apart from individual prayer, it is also best to have spiritual covering by getting one’s cell group or church leader to pray as well.
Pray also as a group or in pairs when you set out, and keep praying for all the people you have talked to even after the weekly session.
#2: Join an existing street evangelism group
Join a group so that you will be more motivated to evangelise regularly, said Jeremiah.
As part of a collective, there would also be the support, guidance, covering and accountability. Each group tends to go to the same place every week, hence increasing the possibility that you may encounter the same people whom you have spoken to the week before, creating the opportunity for follow up.
Should you wish to start your own group, a good spot is where there are resting places or chairs for people to hang around and sit down, or a relaxing environment where people have time to spare.
Avoid office areas where workers tend to be in a hurry and are preoccupied with either eating their lunch or preparing for their next appointment.
#3: Be led by the Holy Spirit on who to approach and what to say
You can go and talk to anyone, but God usually can and will show us who to approach, said Jeremiah.
He introduces himself and asks for permission from the stranger to continue the conversation.
“Sometimes, the person just catches my eye and I will go over from a distance. God will also show us how to tell if a person is waiting around for something or has some time to spare,” said Jeremiah.
He tends to start off by making small talk or talking about “worldly” affairs, be it inflation or wars. If the hearer is open to chatting, he transitions to spiritual matters, for instance what the Bible says about those issues.
Early on in the interaction, he introduces himself and his partner, and asks for permission from the stranger to continue the conversation.
Sometimes, God may direct the encounter and conversation in a very specific way, said Jeremiah.
Once, when he was doing an outreach at Bedok Central, Jeremiah walked past a dustbin and felt God telling him that he needed to share with someone about his own former drinking problem.
So, he shared about it with the next person he spoke to at the market, who turned out to be someone who was addicted to gambling. What Jeremiah said resonated with the stranger so much that he gave his life to Christ that day.
#4: Share the full Gospel
It had taken Jeremiah four decades to finally accept Christ, despite reading Bible stories and attending church, because he had had the wrong concept of Christianity, he told Salt&Light.
“I thought it was all about works and I found it tough to be a good person. It was only when I heard and understood about grace that I was set free to believe.
“Sometimes, pre-believers who hear bits and pieces of the Gospel may develop misconceptions,” he said.
He urged believers to do their homework and go for evangelism training in order to know how to share the full Gospel.
“The full Gospel includes even the potentially ‘unpleasant’ parts about sin and judgement. Those parts are important because if they do not acknowledge they are sinners, then they would not be able to grasp the awesome significance of the gift of salvation,” he said.
#5: Different strokes for different folks
Though the full Gospel needs to be shared, how it is delivered should be tailored to the needs of the recipient, Jeremiah emphasised.
He recalled meeting a lady who was feeling troubled, so he shared his own experience of how God helped him through difficult times instead of delving straight into the Gospel.
For the elderly, Jeremiah gently has them consider the consequences of their mortality and shares how death is not the end for Christians.
To youths concerned about what would happen should their parents fall sick or die, Jeremiah describes how their parents could be together forever in heaven.
For university students, he points to the surrounding nature and has a dialogue with them over whether it is logical for everything to come into existence via a Big Bang.
#6: Guide the Sinner’s Prayer or leave a Gospel tract
Should it be the day when someone is ready to accept Jesus as Lord, welcome them into the Kingdom by guiding them in saying the Sinner’s Prayer.
One of his pastors received a call years later from a girl who shared that she had just prayed to receive Christ.
For those who are not yet ready to do so, remember to leave them a Gospel tract that has your contact number. That would be useful in the event that they wish to find out more or say the Sinner’s Prayer in future.
There were a few occasions when the people Jeremiah met told him that they preferred to say the Sinner’s Prayer when they are by themselves in a quiet place.
One of his pastors also related an anecdote when she received a call years later from a girl – with whom she had previously left a Gospel tract – who shared that she had just prayed to receive Christ.
- Share your faith freely but do not disparage other faiths.
- Do not force your way through the conversation if they are not interested in listening. Retreat graciously and leave a good impression so that they would be more likely to engage with Christians the next time an opportunity arises.
- Do not be drawn into arguments or distracted by questions. Prioritise sharing the Gospel first, then get back to them about their questions.
- Don’t be afraid of rejection.
“Rejections are normal because many of us, too, did not immediately come to Christ. What is key is to plant a seed and leave an opening for someone else to continue the conversation next time,” said Jeremiah.
“We may not know what happened to them before our talk, but we could be the person to inch them closer to salvation.”
He has met people who yelled and screamed at him before he could even say “hi”, as well as others who rudely reply him with questions for each question that he posed to them.
Despite these unpleasant encounters, he trusts in the timing of God in leading him to people who are on His heart.
For instance, there was an occasion when a woman from the United Kingdom teared when he shared with her how Christ took the punishment for our sins.
“She told me that, a day or two ago, a pastor whom she did not know had also prayed for her and her husband. God’s eyes were on her. Sometimes, we may not know what happened to them before or after we talk to them, but we could be the next person to inch them closer to salvation,” said Jeremiah.
Ultimately, such encounters are also about the work of God.
“Once I was sharing the Gospel with a woman from China and her male friend beside her started to leave. She held him back and told him to let me finish talking first. On another occasion, it was the Singaporean wife who was uncomfortable yet her husband held her back to listen,” said Jeremiah.
“It was the grace of God who held them there. Otherwise, they could easily have walked away. Without God doing the necessary, it can be quite tough,” he added.
Out of over a hundred people he has shared the Gospel with, about 10 – or one in every 10 – ends up accepting Jesus into their lives.
Ambassadors for Christ
Despite some perceptions that street evangelism may be outmoded in today’s digital day and age, Jeremiah feels that it still has its place.
“Street evangelism allows you to reach out to anyone and everyone, even visitors from beyond our borders,” said Jeremiah.
“I have seen both introverted as well as extroverted people sharing on the streets. God will empower us.”
He recalled a time when he was at East Coast Park doing street evangelism. Within a day, he had spoken to people from Britain, Nepal and China. His team mates also brought an Israeli citizen to Christ that day.
Street evangelism also enables believers to reach out to people who have not heard the Gospel before, or those who feel more comfortable discussing faith matters with people they do not know.
“Friendship evangelism can take a long time. Some may find it more difficult to discuss religion with their loved ones. So, we can be His vessels to reach out,” said Jeremiah.
He recalled how he once met a hawker who was involved with a secret society in the past and could not forgive himself for the things he had done.
“He told me that, even if God could forgive him, he could not forgive himself. But I told him that God came to die precisely for persons such as him. He needed to know that,” said Jeremiah, who subsequently led the man to Christ.
Any believer should be able to do street evangelism if they wish to as there is no singular personality type needed for outreach, he added.
“I have seen an old woman in her 80s, introverted as well as extroverted people, all sharing on the streets. God will empower us when we obey Him and walk in faith.
“Just like how each country sends its own diplomats and ambassadors out, we remember that we are Christ’s ambassadors out there. What a great honour it is to represent Him!”
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