8-32 BOARD GIVES GOOD ADVICE
Anyway, it's been a good year... especially the second semester. I met last July - while we were in the U.S. for our new mission agency's annual conference - with my The 8-32 Movement advisory board, comprised of two pastors, two mission committee chairmen, a church elder and a very-interested layman. One important piece of advice that I was given was to move 8-32 closer to home by returning to the public university - Fluminense Federal University (UFF) - where our ministry in the Greater Rio de Janeiro area began in 1994! We had wanted to stay away one more semester to allow most of the students we knew while serving with Campus Crusade at UFF had graduated, but I saw the wisdom in my board's advice. I'm sure glad we returned.
Upon our return our initial strategy was to "filter" out those students at UFF as well as from several private universities in our city - Niterói - by offering a biblical* evangelism course. We had 26 students participate in our class (in person and/or virtually) but, due to four long weekends this past semester, our class lost some momentum. However, we ended with a strong nucleus of eight students and one professor; these will be our key people with whom we plan to kick off the new school year this coming March.
On the evangelism front, I developed a banner diagramming Josh McDowell's Lord, Liar or Lunatic? argument to generate interest in seriously considering Christ's claims to be God and the implications of those claims: "You can either accept Him or reject Him as your God, Lord and Savior." Of course, introducing Jesus' role as Savior opened the door for me to share the biblical gospel with my listeners. Aïda and I ended the year having reached - primarily via this method - 1,038 students. Of course we used our campus ministry background in personal evangelism and discipleship to take our Biblical Evangelism module students sharing on campus, which is reflected in our total.
GETTING PERSONAL: Brenda (from our last newsletter)
As Brenda and I (Aïda) approached Livia on Brenda's campus (UniPli) we immediately felt welcomed. ”I love to talk about God," Livia exclaimed. "I've got a whole hour before my bus comes!”
When we started dialoging with Livia she told us she believed she would go to heaven if she were to die that night. But soon, after a few penetrating questions, she agreed that if she were to die that night she would be guilty before God and, according to the Bible, deserve eternal punishment. We asked her if she would like to hear what God had done so that she didn't have to end up in hell. She quickly shot back, "Yes, of course!" After telling Livia the Good News of Jesus' substitutionary atonement and resurrection so that she could be made acceptable before a holy God, she said she wanted to benefit from the gospel by repenting and trusting in Christ. Livia then thanked us and told us that she had only become interested in spiritual issues a month earlier; at that time she decided to check out a class for seekers at a local Catholic church. She confided in us that she didn't get much out of that class because it ended up only being a “self-study” course!
GETTING PERSONAL: André (from our last newsletter)
André, a Telecommunications Engineering student on our main campus - UFF - leads evangelism in his church; however, he had never shared his faith on campus. When he heard of our class he was eager to learn to do evangelism in the university context.
Although he has only done five classes so far, Andre has already grasped the essence of how to share his faith biblically, leading a good number of those he's "practiced on" to repentance and faith in Christ. He even preached to a group of seven neighborhood bar-goers one Saturday during a heavy rainstorm. All were stranded at their sidewalk table. "I was shocked to see all their heads bowed as I led them in a prayer of repentance and faith!" an amazed Andre later exclaimed. And to top it all off we're in the middle of giving our abbreviated Biblical Evangelism Module to Andre's church - plus 3 others - including taking the 60 participants – along with 3 pastors - out into the neighborhood to put their training into practice!
Bill began taking Andre with him to share the gospel one-on-one with students, in addition to involving him in his "mini-talk" evangelism outside the main student cafeteria. As you may remember, Bill effectively uses his "The Trilema of Christ: Lord, Liar or Lunatic?" banner there almost daily to expose students to the gospel. He said that Andre's presence enables him to speak to many more people because Andre deals with students more one-on-one, which frees Bill up to explain his banner – including why each needs Jesus as his or her God, Lord and Savior and how to benefit from His sacrifice for sin – to many more students who stop to watch and listen.
8-32's Professional component saw me primarily using open air preaching to reach those who work in downtown Rio. The missionary who had some experience working with professionals sensed God's leading to do something different this year, so we didn't develop this component. In fact, until God raises up some interested professionals (ideally graduates from our campus ministry) or a missionary experienced with "marketplace ministry," we're going to put this aspect of our ministry on hold. As far as our Church component, thanks to one of of the UFF students involved in our class, 8-32 developed its Biblical Evangelism module (a 6-8 hour seminar - including an outing in the neighborhood to put the training into practice). Sixty-two people started our course, but only 26 finished. We think it had something to do with the fact that we spread it out over two Sunday afternoons. Live and learn! Next time we'll do it all in one day! Mainly due to my open air preaching 2-3 afternoons a week in downtown Rio, not to mention some select crowd-gathering events like Carnival, Rio's annual Gay Pride parade, several Catholic and Spiritist festivals and New Year's Eve festivities, 8-32 preached the gospel to over 48,000 people in 2010!
So, I'd say 8-32 had a good first year of existence. I know one thing: Aïda and I feel free now to do what God has gifted - not to mention called - us to do, and that included preaching the biblical gospel to thousands, teaching and training 160 students and laymen in biblical evangelism, preaching six sermons, teaching 25 weeks of Sunday School, etc.
On top of that, He has called us to do what we do as part of an excellent little mission agency - in existence since the year Aïda was born (i.e., 1958) - Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship - PEF! After participating in PEF's annual Family Conference last July in Elizabethton, TN, we came away totally impressed with the caliber of men and women who, like us, serve the Lord through this organization around the world!
2011: THE NEXT COUPLE OF MONTHS
So, that's about it for now. I hope this recap of The 8-32 Movement in 2010 has been an encouragement. Look out 2011! I'll be starting the year out by heading to Uganda on January 13 to participate in a School of Evangelismand missions project put on by two PEF leaders twice a year there. Since we hope to host them here in Rio next July, I look forward to "testing the waters" with them in Uganda. I also look forward to doing some biblical evangelism in a primarily English-speaking African nation for a change. My previous four trips to Africa have been to Portuguese-speaking countries - with the exception of a couple of days spent preaching at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa in February, 2009. God bless!
* Biblical Evangelism is a term used by author and speaker Ray Comfort of Living Waters Ministries along with actor Kirk Cameron, both of Way of the Master TV & Radio. The principles of Biblical Evangelism can be found in Ray Comfort's book, Hell's Best Kept Secret, which talks about the biblical principles that Jesus laid out for us regarding evangelizing the lost (e.g., using the moral law - the Ten Commandments - to reveal to them their sin and show them their need for a Savior); see Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30 for biblical examples. The basic concept is this: LAW for the proud-hearted; GRACE for the humble-hearted. In other words, we must first show people that they have a “contagious disease" called SIN (John 3:36, Rom 3:23) which will eventually eternally "kill" them (Rom 6:23). By helping people understand this Bad News first - that all will perish and go to hell if they die in their sins - then the cure of the Good News of the gospel (Jesus Christ's' death & resurrection for our sins) will suddenly make total sense! They will be able to clearly understand what they are being saved from (i.e., God's justice, holiness and wrath); the Good News of Jesus Christ will truly be good news! One more important aspect to Biblical Evangelism: One truly converts to Christianity by repenting of his or her sins and by placing his or her faith/trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Both repentance and faith are understood to be gifts of God, so pressuring an unbeliever to "make a decision for Christ" via "the sinner's prayer" is frowned upon.