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Street evangelists engage crowds to reach ‘secular crowd’ for Jesus

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–A street corner by the railroad tracks at Church Street Station in downtown Orlando became a place of divine appointment the evening of June 10.

As juggler and fire-eater Mark Hickman began his street performance, a small crowd began to gather. As he concluded, he told the assembled group that the only compensation he asked was that they step forward and listen to evangelist/artist Peter O’Driscoll.

Using black light and fluorescent paints, O’Driscoll told the story of the collapse of a ski gondola on an Italian mountainside in 1998 that killed 20 people. He then transformed with his paints an abstract design into the clearly lettered word “Eternity,” followed by a presentation of the problem of sin and the nature of God’s provision through Christ.

For many in the audience, it was a passing diversion, one of many in the busy downtown nightspot of shops, restaurants and bars. Some cursed and walked away as they discovered the true nature of the presentation; others paused and listened a few minutes before wandering off. But by the end of the presentation approximately 15 people voluntarily walked up to accept the literature O’Driscoll offered.

“One of our highest priorities is to present the gospel clearly,” O’Driscoll said after the performance, noting that it is surprising how many people often are willing to hear and respond to the full presentation.

Between and during performances, a group of summer missionaries shared with individuals around the scene. A lamppost on an opposite corner stayed surrounded by young college students who engaged a succession of apparently homeless men in deep discussions about Christ’s ability to transform lives.

While O’Driscoll occupies the corner every Friday and Saturday, on this day their efforts were part of the Crossover Orlando evangelistic emphasis. Crossover is held each year in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Throughout the Florida city, similar scenes played out as the Greater Orlando Baptist Association’s regular summer resort ministries were augmented by Crossover volunteers from across the country.

“Kid’s Clubs” at hotel swimming pools provided opportunities for sharing with children. Creative arts teams based with the association and the North American Mission Board entertained shoppers and tourists with lively secular and Christian music and puppetry, taking opportunities immediately after to share their faith.

“We’re trying to reach a secular crowd that’s very used to being entertained, and we use that as a medium to get an ear to hear and share the message of Jesus Christ,” said Marc Johnston, resort ministries director for the Orlando association. “With those performing teams, what we like to do is build a bridge to the audience, so we have earned a right to be able to share with those folks one-on-one.”

A few minutes after O’Driscoll’s presentation, a Christian drama group from Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., presented a trio of dramatic skits on the same corner. They shared the temptations the world has to offer, along with the free gift of Christ. A red-suited “Satan” gleefully ensnared individuals in sin. And then there was a pantomime of Christ bridging the gap between sinful man and a perfect God through his death on the cross.

The drama was edgy at times, pulling no punches. But as before, some left immediately, some stayed a few minutes and others stayed the entire time. As an invitation was presented — while the rest of those on the busy street carried on with their night on the town — two young adult men made a decision that would alter not only their evening but also the rest of their lives.

They prayed to make Christ Lord of their lives.

    About the Author

  • James Dotson