Two weeks ago I finally made it back up to Canada. It’s been almost three years since the day I crossed the border to get back home into the US, California bound. That was after five years of ministry up in sunny (not!) Vancouver. I still remember flying down Highway I-5 South with a grin, drooling and not looking back (no offense Canadians)!
But anyways, I felt privileged to be invited by an Adventist university group to give some presentations at the University of Western Ontario, which is about two hours from Toronto.
It’s a very secular university with some 30,000 students. So anything goes. Which was to our advantage. But also a challenge. The meetings were held in an open-roofed entrance hall right in the center of the action. As we were doing sound check, several hockey teams came marching in shouting strange things, in some sort of ancient Canadian ritual processional, or something. I’m thinking to myself, “Is this what I’m up against during my entire presentation?”
And to make matters even more exciting, there was a smoothie bar right next to the outside row of seats. No really, it was like three feet away. Every minute those blenders went off like Harley Davidsons, varhoooooom! Across from that was a coffee shop. Next to that was a cafeteria. Up the stairs next to the platform was a movie theater. And so on. Get the picture?
So there I am, seated in the front row. Wondering what is about to happen. The opening welcome and announcement just finished. It’s time to preach. I walk up to the podium and let it rip.
There are people roaming around everywhere. I see some students leaning on the rails on the second floor looking down at me like birds perched on a building ledge. They’re probably thinking, “Who is this guy?” This is no ordinary service. Most of these people didn’t come to us. We came to them. During my presentation I noticed a long line of people in the back waiting to order at the coffee shop. They were looking intently; listening carefully. I thought to myself, “Wow, they’re actually paying attention to what I’m saying.” More than that, they are whispering to each other in obvious commentary to something I’ve said.
On the last night of the weekend, a tall young man walks up to the literature table in the back and starts talking with one of the Adventist students. After introducing myself he asks, “What’s all this about?” He’s a Ph.D. student. Eighteenth-Century European History. Yeah, that type.
So I told him that the seminar is entitled ‘Thinking About Thinking About God’. I explained that Christianity is intellectually satisfying. That we don’t have to put our brains on the bookshelf to believe in the Bible.
I was singing his tune. “I’m an intellectual Christian,” he replied. Which was ironic, because the presentation (the last one) I was about to give was about the importance of having a heart change and the dangers of a mere intellectual experience. “It’s got to move your heart,” I said.
Short pause. Then he confessed, “That’s what I lack. That’s what I need. Truth is, I have a hard time even praying.”
“Please join us.”
“I think I will.” And there he was in the back row for the entire presentation.
I bore my testimony about how God’s Word transformed my life. How it melted my heart. How it just changed everything. I can see random people in the center hall listening in. Needless to say, it was a powerful experience for me.
Hats off to the Adventist student group at University of Western Ontario. It takes guts to think outside the box. And when Spirit-led, heaven honors it by exposing more people to the good Word!
Let’s be bold. Let’s shout it from the mountain tops!