Monday, January 13, 2014

My Afternoon at the Religious Freedom Monument (Part 1)

Yesterday afternoon I took advantage of an opportunity to go and check in on the annual Religious Freedom Celebration that takes place in Fredericksburg, VA.  It is an annual event, because it is here in the "Burg" where Thomas Jefferson penned his Religious Freedom Amendment.

The parade event started off at the train station, which marched about a mile and half to the Religious Freedom Monument. It would be there that the celebration was to take place. Those marching were people from some of the major religious representatives, which included a the local Muslim center and a few skeptical groups.  Yes, as you might imagine, the intentions for my going to this event. Those intentions were twofold.

My first intention was to see if this event would be enough to give a religious pulse for this area.  I found out that it wasn't any like that at all.  About 150 people marched, and let's just say that there was little to no evangelical representation in the parade. The Fredericksburg Humanists and the Fredericksburg skeptics and Coalition of Reason all brought up "the caboose."  Their reason for marching was to show that people who are skeptical about their "religious views" were not alone and that those groups were there to help them pick up their skeptical pieces.  Interesting.

My second intention was to see if I could get involved in some conversations with some of these folks.  And I would like to speak to this in this posting with just a couple of thoughts.

First, as Christian apologists, evangelists, and case-makers, we should have a heart to be observant of the religious pulse of our communities. Take part, in sharing the gospel. If we are a Christian case-maker this is fertile ground to do pre-evangelism and evangelism.  Look for those opportunities.

This kind of outreach is such of a type of community engagement, and I was hoping to take some folks with me who felt confident in doing something like this. Maybe the next time.

As apologists we should look at these events as "Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34) opportunities. Like the Areopagus in Athens, Paul noticed that the philosophers were also followers of various deities or understandings. At this event, there are also people who have divergent views of God, God's Word, and redemption.  The thinking in the back of my mind rang forth from the words of Paul, in Acts 17:23. It also should be in the back of our minds as we prepare to speak someone. That verse says,    "that which you worship in ignorance let me proclaim to you." (Acts 17:23)

Secondly, as you pray about going into this kind of event, ask the Lord to lead you. We don't go into these opportunities without praying. When I first heard of this event, I knew that it was an annual thing. But the Lord's leading was strong on this and we followed. We should always be about looking for opportunities like these to share.  And if the Lord leads we are to go and see what happens.

However these kinds of events are not about going and handing out a tract and getting someone to the foot of the cross in 10 minutes or less. It is not about handing out a Gideon Bible and moving on, sharing something that someone has not a motivation to hear.

Just read the gospels, and you will find that there are all kinds of settings bearing different results.  Some are willing to hear and make a decision.  Others will ask to hear the message again.  And others will mock.  Nevertheless, all these things are good within their respective of their contextual settings. There STILL are those times when handing a Bible to someone is good timing because it is God's timing for them to get it. There ARE those times when handing someone a "Got LIFE" doc will be best.  These settings are for people who have heard, and are truly looking.

A lot of evangelism that I have found myself doing it called "conversational evangelism."  Some times a person is ready to follow the Lord through repentance and faith. But salvation is a sovereign act by our God, and in an event like this, with a plethora of views the goal was to plant seeds or as some folks and I like to say, "put a stone in a shoe" of the ones who are antagonistic to the Christian faith. What were these skeptics like?

At this event, the Pledge of Allegiance included "one nation under God" and "God Bless America" was sung at the conclusion of the event. I noticed these Fredericksburg skeptical groups were off to my left and I could catch their responses/reactions out of my peripheral view with little turning of my head. Let's just say that they were not pleased and I saw that in their facial gestures and head shaking toward the negative.  But they were at the Religious Freedom celebration.  I believe it was their choice to be there or not be there and that would be affirmed in my conversation with a few of them.

In closing this post, to wet your appetite, I had the opportunity to engage four of them.  They were all about "reason" and wanted NOTHING to do with special revelation. To wet it further, let me say that they also conveyed to me that they want to talk to somebody and anybody about their skeptical views, because they believe they are absolutely right and people of "faith are misled, blind, and deluded." What a fertile ground for discussion and the Lord knows what would happen.

Folks, as one who is an evangelist who brings in the discipline of apologetics to reach this post-Christian culture, that is why I go; and that is why I went to this event.  I will share more on the happenings in my next postings.  Be sure to keep up with more this series in The Real Issue.

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