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Evangelist works the crowds for Jesus

MIAMI (BP)–The 65-year-old evangelist from the “rice fields” of Arkansas says he, like the world-renowned farm boy from North Carolina, knows how to work a crowd.

It’s a gift from God, David Cobb says, and something to which he is called.

Unlike Billy Graham, however, Cobb doesn’t gather the crowd; it’s ready-made.

Cobb, a Mission Service Corps missionary with the North American Mission Board, took a team of three to Miami the week before Super Bowl XLIV to pass out tracts and share their faith.

The opportunity is one he repeats throughout the year at large venues where people gather for sports and other big-ticket events.

It’s been 30 years since Cobb said he felt a call to minister to men to exhort them to be leaders in the home and, in the process, effectively change the culture.

“That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” Cobb told Baptist Press.

Cobb enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas in 1980, where he earned a master of divinity degree. “It was a testing time, a time to get solid,” he said.

Ten years later, in 1990, Cobb left full-time ministry in the church for life as an evangelist.

“God directed me to get out of the church and go to the streets and let the world draw the crowd,” he said. “I want to take Jesus into the crowd.”

Cobb, a consultant for NAMB’s ICE initiative (Intentional Community Evangelism), has led teams to hundreds of events throughout the United States. They prayerwalk, hand out Gospel tracts and New Testaments, strike up conversations with passers-by and workers, and pray with those who are interested. They are intentional, but sensitive.

In Miami, at an outdoor mall just outside the port of Miami where an NFL shop was selling Super Bowl apparel, Cobb stood with Mark Martin, an evangelist from Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Don Cherry, a retired attorney from Franklin, Tenn.

Martin, wearing a T-shirt with a huge yellow smiley face and the words, “Smile Jesus Loves You,” bounced up and down in tennis shoes, telling individuals who walked by, “Jesus Loves You!”

Persistent, but friendly, he pushed his hair out of his face with one hand, while handing out tracts with the other.

“Have a good time today — in the name of Jesus,” he said.

Cherry was almost a polar opposite in his approach across a wide walkway.

Wearing a red ball cap and quietly asking people if they would like something to read, he appeared unruffled when people walked by politely shaking their head. One group of high-school-aged girls walked by reading a tract he’d given them and burst out laughing at something on it.

After about 10 minutes of simply handing out tracts, however, Cherry was speaking earnestly with a uniformed worker who stopped by to ask him a few questions. Martin, meanwhile, was engaged in conversation with a man who appeared quite interested in what he had to say.

“You just do as what the Lord leads you to do,” Cobb said. “There’s a time to hand out tracts and a time to talk with people.”

Earlier in the day, Cobb said he had spoken with a young man, Juan, who was curious about the difference between highly organized religion and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Cobb said he gave the young man a clear introduction to salvation through Jesus Christ alone and that he was very receptive and open. At a point in the conversation, however, Cobb left the man with his email for more questions and ended the conversation.

“It came time, you could tell, it was enough,” Cobb said.

Cobb’s team of three spent several days at various venues where Super Bowl crowds would be gathering, including Sun Life Stadium, to interact with people as they were entering the stadium or waiting in line for the NFL title game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

There is no one strategy for any of the events the team targets, Cobb said, explaining, “I just try and see what the Lord says and see what works. Sometimes He speaks through other people as I see how they react.”

Big-event evangelism may not be “for everybody to do every day,” Cobb said. “But it would be beneficial for everybody to do it at least once.” A lot more than a ballgame is at stake, he reminded. “If they get out here and lead someone to Christ, then they are caught for all time.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.GoFBW.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan