Beach Reach & the Power of God

            As I write this, I am praying and gearing up for Beach Reach. Beach Reach is a ministry started in 1980 by Buddy Young that consists of college students heading to South Padre Island in order to share the gospel with the thousands of college students who head south to party their cares away. The Christians provide free pancake breakfasts and free van rides to anyone who needs food and a ride. Each event is saturated with Christian college students whose main goal is to have conversations about Jesus Christ over breakfast or during a van ride. Each seat in each 15 passenger van will have at least one Christian on each row of the van.

I was able to go three times while in college, and this year I was asked to join the group that is being sent by the University of Houston Baptist Student Ministry. I immediately asked my fellow elders and sought to make it happen, and Lord-willing I will be joining them in March.

One of the trips in college (me & my boy A Skeezy)
I am extremely excited because evangelistic opportunities abound, as you can imagine. There will be many conversations about the gospel that week. As I go, I go with confidence. I go with confidence for five main reasons:

First, I go with confidence in the power of the gospel. God has promised to save through the proclamation of the gospel. Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (NIV). This is good news for the evangelist! God doesn’t use our persuasiveness or Bible knowledge to save people. It is good to be persuasive, and great to know the Bible well, but God saves through people telling other people the gospel. This means one of the fundamental tasks of the evangelist is to be faithful to the gospel message.
Our temptation is to make it more “user-friendly,” but this is counter-productive. God saves through the gospel. We don’t write (or re-write) the message. We simply deliver it faithfully. "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” The prophet Isaiah assures us that God’s Word will accomplish what he purposes. It will not return to him void (Isa 55:10-11).

Second, I go with confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who grants spiritual understanding (1 Cor 2:14). Try as I might, it is he who must intervene and bring conviction to the world (John 16:8-9). The Holy Spirit will bring God’s word to mind as we speak about the gospel Story and it is he who will work in the hearts of unbelievers. He will penetrate stony hearts and will give new eyes – eyes that no longer see Jesus as boring, but as the treasure worth selling everything to obtain.

Third, I go with confidence in the coherence of the Christian faith as opposed to all other worldviews. College students in particular think they are prepared to debate anyone on anything after having sat through Philosophy 101. Many will have intellectual objections to the Christian faith. I am comforted by the truth that without the Christian faith, one cannot make sense of anything. As a comprehensive worldview, the Christian faith is robustly coherent and contains much more explanatory and experiential power than other worldviews do.

To take one example, you cannot have ethical opinions without an objective moral standard by which to define good or bad. Atheists have no such standard. For them, all is simply matter in motion. For them, natural selection is necessary. The strong eat the weak. So their worldview does not have the capacity to define evil. Everything just is. They have no objective basis to call a thing evil. Christians say the character of God – revealed in his Word – is the standard of right and wrong. Without him, we are only left with opinion.

Fourth, I go with confidence that Jesus has all authority. In the Great Commission, Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." He is the Lord. He is currently ruling and reigning at the right hand of God. I go out knowing that Jesus already owns the people I will be talking to. In John Dickson’s wonderful book on evangelism, he speaks of the mission equation: “If there is one Lord to whom all people belong and owe their allegiance, the people of that Lord must promote this reality everywhere.”[1]
I was converted in college, and quickly became burdened for my lost friends. I wanted all to know about Jesus so I turned my Ford Explorer into a gospel tract on wheels. On the back I had the Jesus fish, a bumper sticker that said “Real Men Love Jesus,” and a huge custom made cross decal on the back glass with the words “Eternally Secure” surrounding the cross. I am not finished. On the top front windshield, I placed the words “Bow Now or Bow Later (Rom 14)” in obnoxiously large font. Now I don’t think turning your car into a chick tract is a good idea, but the words are true. The Bible says that one day, every single knee will bow to the Lord Jesus and every tongue will acknowledge who he really is – Lord (Phil 2:10-11)! We urge people to willingly bow now, rather than in destruction then.

Fifth, I go with confidence knowing that salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Jesus said that "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them" (John 6:44). We go in the power of the Spirit, striving to faithfully tell the gospel, all the while knowing that God must draw people through the message. Ephesians chapter two describes our “pre-Christ” state as dead in sin (Eph 2:1, 5). Often you will hear preachers use an analogy of a lost person as a drowning victim. We must offer them Jesus (a life saving float) and they must grab hold of him, but Paul’s analogy is bleaker than that. A more biblical picture is that a lost person is already fish food – dead, lying at the bottom of the ocean. Jesus must go get us and give us new life. We were dead but God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love, made us alive (Eph 2:4-5).

I have always been encouraged in evangelism by Lydia’s story. As the Apostles were preaching the gospel, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). As we share Jesus with people, we should pray that the Lord would open their heart as we are speaking. I am confident in the fact that it is the Lord who opens hearts!

Though you probably won’t have the opportunity to go to Beach Reach, your opportunities are abundant. Just look down your street. Look around your work space. Look around your local grocery store. The harvest is plentiful (Matt 9:37). Go, and go with confidence.

[1] John Dickson, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 115.