“Believe in Jesus Christ.”
Heard from the intersection of Union Street and Main Street on the first Saturday morning of 2015 (Jan. 3) were the strong, passionate voices of the pastors in New York Evangelism Fellowship sharing the gospel to passersby on the street.
Members of New York Evangelism Fellowship, a Korean evangelistic group, meet every Saturday at the Flushing public parking lot, and share the gospel indiscriminately to Koreans and non-Koreans alike. Despite the icy winds, these members came out once again on Jan. 3 to share the gospel with the members of the community.
Street evangelism has seen a decreasing trend in churches due to the recent emphasis and promotion of relational evangelism. Korean churches have also started abandoning street evangelism, calling it outdated, and saying that the church must partake in more effective methods for current times. Though in such ways of thinking, church has become smarter and wiser in the mind, this ‘wisdom’ may actually serve as a threat to the growth of the church. Even the ‘foolish’ methods of evangelism is used by God to preach what is considered foolish in the world’s perspective.
Recently it has become increasingly difficult to meet street evangelists on the street. During the time when immigration was at its peak and the Korean immigrant church was continuously growing in number, it was common to find street evangelists. However, as immigration has stopped and the church’s paradigms have shifted, it has become harder to meet such evangelists on the street. Similarly, for the past few years, the Korean immigrant church has been stagnant in terms of growth.
In the midst of such circumstances, Evangelism Fellowship has been gathering to once again share the gospel using this ‘foolish’ method. The passion of evangelism has returned once again to New York, a place which once used to be one of the most notable places in terms of revival and evangelism. Evangelism Fellowship has been distributing 200,000 copies of evangelism tracts to churches in New York. Though the churches could have dismissed the tracts, calling it a thing of the past, the effect was actually fairly positive. Churches not only in New York, but also in New Jersey and other states have also requested to receive copies of the tracts. Evangelism Fellowship also successfully hosted revival and evangelism conferences and seminars, for which $60,000 were raised. All of this was started by the first steps of passion that Evangelism Fellowship took to share the gospel. Their passionate voices on Saturday morning in sharing the gospel were likely due to their strong convictions that God is pleased with street evangelism.
On Jan. 3, street evangelism began with a time of prayer with all of the members at 8:10 AM. Yoon Joon Huh, the president of New York Evangelism Fellowship, asked that the gospel would be preached to the souls that desperately need it, and that souls would be saved. Huh, along with Young Hwan Kim and Tae Wook Kim split up into different areas to share the gospel, wearing the message of the gospel around their necks on a shoulder band.
Evangelism was not confined to Koreans in the area. The gospel tracts were written in Korean, English, Chinese, and Spanish, and through these four languages, the three men were able to emphasize that Jesus Christ is Lord to anyone who passed by. Another page of the tract featured a list of phone numbers and addresses of churches in New York, and showed Evangelism Fellowship’s sincere desire for the entire church in New York to grow.
The responses of those who encountered these three men were diverse. There were fellow Christians who encouraged them, others who simply responded with smiles, and still others who kept their heads down with stoic expressions, refusing to listen. Though one could be discouraged by a series of rejections, the men continued their attempt and evangelism with positive energy.
“Right before we start street evangelism, I always question whether I would able to do this,” Huh said. “I start thinking discouraging thoughts on how embarrassing it would be to approach strangers. But after we pray in the beginning, all of those fears in my heart just disappear.”
Huh added that many times, without prayer, he has tendencies to judge people based on their appearances. However, when beginning evangelism with prayer, he said he’s filled with boldness about the gospel, and is able to listen to the stories of even those who may look threatening or dangerous.
Young Hwan Kim generally shared the gospel to people waiting for the bus at bus stops. Rather unexpectedly, there were many people who did not dismiss him but listened to him carefully. One of Young Hwan Kim’s strengths was his confidence in approaching people, and he shared that one of his strategies is to greet people differently according to the time, such as by saying “Happy New Year” this time around, and in various languages.
Huh said that he makes it a point to be respectful to every person as they leave, even if they refuse to hear him out, bowing to them at a 90-degree angle. He said that showing such respect leaves the other person in a good mood, and also gives greater possibility for them to hear the message the next time they may be approached with the gospel.
Recently, Evangelism Fellowship has started a new method of approaching people, and has been asking people to read the words that are written in foreign languages on the gospel tract for them. This would naturally cause them to say, “Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” and allow room for a conversation regarding the topic.
Evangelism Fellowship also shared instances in which they were greatly encouraged while evangelizing. There were those who would give them offering in various forms, including bread, $20 or even $50 bills. Though it may seem small to some, to these men, these actions served to greatly encourage their hearts. During the time in which they were fundraising and preparing for the evangelism seminars, someone gave them $2,000 on the spot as an offering while they were evangelizing on the street.
“It’s through evangelism that I realized that God takes care of all of our other needs when we’re faithful to the tasks that He is pleased with,” Huh shared. “My hope is that the church would lay down the worries of the world, and spend more energy on prayer and missions.”
Evangelism Fellowship has had a positive influence on the New York churches. Their 20,000 gospel tracts have been used in various places for street evangelism, and as a growing movement, it seems that there will be even more copies of the tract to be printed in the near future. Their recent evangelism seminar, called “Yellow Handkerchief Day,” served as a special opportunity in which the churches in New York had the chance to evaluate and reflect on how much attention they had been giving evangelism in their respective ministries.
Evangelism Fellowship has been meeting during weekdays as well at the public parking lot at Flushing. The belief of the members is that evangelizing in New York, a place in which individuals of 240 different ethnicities reside and work, is another method to participate in world missions.
Without ones who preach the message, people cannot hear the gospel, and thus, the members of the Evangelism Fellowship begin 2015 once again to preach that people may hear.