The price of sharing the Gospel on the streets
Operation 513 keeps Ryan Hemelaar busy. He’s the overseer of this street evangelism ministry Australia-wide and the South East Queensland team leader.
The Operation has various arms across the nation and is now reaching out across the world. At the global level Ryan testified about his most recent experience.
He and ten others from the Operation 513 team have recently returned from a trip to Myanmar where they connected up with eleven pastors and their translators in the troubled country.
“Our main focus was to share the Gospel with as many people as possible so we printed up over 200-thousand Gospel tracks for the nine or so days we were there.”
“By God’s grace we were able to distribute them to people in the main city of Yangon and it was amazing to see the response.”
“It was almost like 99 percent of people will take a Gospel tract and you can approach almost anyone and say, ‘Hey, do you know about Jesus?’”
Ray Comfort an inspiration
Ryan said they were open and receptive enough to spend the next half hour talking with them about it.
For eleven people to distribute 200-thousand tracts in nine days signifies a very well organised expedition far removed from the zealous sole evangelist preaching to passers-by at an inner city street corner.
Ryan was quick to give credit where credit was due, in this case Ray Comfort and his ministry.
“Ray’s teaching on street evangelism has spread across the world and people have become equipped to know how to share their faith.”
Ryan pointed out how it’s so much easier to do street evangelism with other people rather than just by yourself.
Love grace and compassion
“That’s why each of our teams across Australia will have maybe 10 to 15 or sometimes as many as 30 people on the team each night for the common purpose of sharing the Gospel with the lost.”
“We want to do it with love and grace and compassion and yet still be uncompromising with the truth,” Ryan stated.
But the challenges remain the same. Take sharing the Gospel with an individual as opposed to several people in a group.
“Jesus said a prophet is not without honour except in his own home town. Often when we know a person who has friends with him, they’ll be less willing to listen.”
However, a stranger can be more receptive.
“If you ask a stranger, ‘Hey, where do you think you will go when you die? Have you thought about that?’ And they’ll open up and be willing to talk and share things they probably wouldn’t share with their friends.”
‘Get out of your comfort zones’
One on one they don’t have anything to lose but if it’s with a friend they may be worried about that relationship. As far as friends go Ryan said everyone has a limited number.
“It’s important for Christians to get out of their comfort zones. Fear and trepidation can terrify us but if you follow in Jesus footsteps and you are sharing your faith Jesus is right there with you.”
Ryan should know. He hasn’t had a smooth run by any means and here he is today, an evangelist coordinating teams of evangelists oversighting street evangelism in Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, in Auckland and Essex in the UK.
Ryan’s found himself in many sticky situations and today it’s no different. In Queensland for example the authorities have outlawed people sharing their faith in the main mall in the middle of Brisbane’s CBD.
A couple of years ago the Brisbane City Council began to fine individuals for wanting to share their faith in the Queen Street Mall.
Council outlaws Mall evangelism
“They even fined people for starting a conversation with someone. They said, ‘You’re talking about God and talking about God is not allowed here.”
Operation 513 challenged the regulation through to the High Court where the Court decided it wasn’t something they wanted to hear and the decision wasn’t overturned.
Ryan voiced his concern saying there was once a number of groups that would share the Gospel in the Mall. Some had been there for decades.
“Unfortunately the local authority has driven them out and they’re not allowed to return. It’s so sad to see that,” Ryan lamented.
“You can’t sit down on a bench and say a friendly hello and start a spiritual conversation because the Council says that’s not allowed.”
Are we shocked that authorities such as the Brisbane Council are behaving as ‘Thought Police’, telling you that you cannot share your faith with anyone?
Persecution comes, the church grows
But in the Brisbane case the ban is limited to the Queen Street Mall. Other parts of the city you’re free to proselytise.
For Ryan his experience as a street preacher includes an arrest and an appearance in court. Unfazed, Ryan said it reminded him of the Apostles in the book of Acts.
“They were often stopped and driven out of places. But because persecution came upon the early church and Jerusalem it meant the church spread and grew.”
“That’s often what we see. The church will grow through these hard times and the persecution is sometimes what the church needs to wake it up. Often we can get into a stupor and become lazy and comfortable in this world not realising our home is not here, our home is in heaven. That’s where our citizenship is.”
Ryan’s mission included his encounter with magistrates and judges that followed his arrest.
He was aware the Gospel had been presented in the court and with that knowledge he prayed that God would soften the hearts of the judges that they too might be redeemed at some point in their lives.
Don’t fear man
“The Bible says that we should pray for all people, even pray for those in authority and that God would save them and bring them to Himself.”
Above all Ryan’s brush with the law has strengthened his faith.
“It makes you rely not on yourself but on God and He supplies you with everything you need. It reminds me what Jesus said in Matthew 10 – ‘Don’t fear man who can only kill the body but fear God who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
What can man do? For Ryan, he knows God is on his side.
“Even if they drag me before a court, who cares? Ultimately I want to live my life for the Lord. You draw so much closer to the Lord and you’re so much more joyful knowing that you’re doing for Him and in His service.”
‘Jesus said if they hated Me they’ll hate you also.’
As for persecution it will come. Ryan quoted 2 Timothy where it says ‘anyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution’ and I encourage everyone to make compassion swallow your fears.”
“Have compassion for the lost. They need to hear the Gospel. There’s no other name given among men by which they can be saved but the name of Jesus.”
We are a group of Christians, from different denominational backgrounds, who are passionate about fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to preach the Gospel to all nations.
Our primary mission is to see God glorified through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to see the lost come unto salvation. Also, we exist to equip and encourage the believers for the work of evangelism.
Theologically we would be classed as evangelical and we adhere to the five solas of the protestant reformation.
We are committed to the public proclamation of the Gospel. We believe that God saves sinners through the Gospel revealed in the scriptures. We strive to be faithful to the delivery of His message. The integrity of the Gospel is of utter most importance; everything else is secondary.