Pastor John Sherwood and Peter Simpson were preaching the gospel in the centre of High Wycombe on May 5th, helped by members and friends of the congregation of Penn. From the moment that the witnessing brethren were setting up, conversations were entered into.
Sadly, there seemed to be a number of people who disliked the public preaching, and they complained about the volume, although only the human voice is employed and there is no amplification.
Because it was a nice warm day, people were sitting outside at various cafés. The pastors make a deliberate point of never being too near such venues, so that their presence is not purposefully intrusive.
However, complaints were received from people at three different cafés which we were around the location of the witness, which was some 50 yards or so from each of the cafés and facing away from them, and so was certainly not specifically directed at anyone sitting in front of them.
One of those complaining, an elderly lady, actually came up to Pastor Sherwood as he was preaching and physically poked him. Nevertheless, he carried on preaching regardless of this rather unpleasant approach.
One man remonstrated with Pastor Simpson, claiming that there was no proof that Jesus Christ ever existed, and he asked the minister to give him evidence. The minister responded, “Jesus Christ rose from the dead and He is alive in my own heart”. Furthermore, he went on to explain, there is ample historical documentation for the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, which would not be called into question in respect of any other historical figure. And, of course, we also have the infallible record of God’s Word, the Bible.
Another man shouted out to Pastor Simpson, “What about the pyramids? They were built 5000 years ago – long before Christ”. The man seemed to think that the ancient age of the pyramids was some kind of invalidation of the Christian faith.
Pastor Simpson responded that the pyramids were built not quite that long ago, (more around 2600 BC). Nevertheless, the engineering skills of centuries ago speaks of the wonder of man made in the image of God, rather than being any evidence for the non-existence of God.
The Penn minister was then asked. “What about all those who lived before Christ?”, the question implying that the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus could not possibly have had any relevance for the millions who lived before Him.
The preacher responded that the death of Christ is the means by which all people who have ever lived since the beginning of time are saved. (This of course is why the Son of God is described as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” in Revelation 13:8). The Lord Jesus is in fact the eternal Son of God who was active in His world throughout the Old Testament period.
One Muslim man came up to Pastor Simpson as he was preaching and angrily asked if he supported British foreign policy in Yemen. The minister replied that he was not there to defend British foreign policy at all, but to talk about the Christian faith.
The man was sadly abusive and swore at the minister, but thankfully another Muslim gentleman came by endeavouring to placate him and then leading him away.
Pastor Simpson spoke on John 8:12, in which the Lord Jesus Christ declares, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”.
The preacher explained that the whole world lies in spiritual darkness. This is a world, for example, afflicted by war, disease and suffering, the origin of which distresses can be traced to man’s rebellion against His Maker.
An indication that the world is in great darkness is also seen in the fact that so many people today no longer even understand the basic creation ordinance of gender, the fact that God has created men male and female and that people’s gender is fixed, as having been ordained by God. However, the spiritual darkness of society is such that many now regard gender to be nothing other than a social construct which can be changed according to a person’s individual preferences.
Likewise, the world’s spiritual darkness has been manifested in our leaders engaging in the redefinition of marriage in direct contradiction of God’s commandment, for marriage can only be between one man and one woman.
We need to realise that those who govern us and make our laws are generally speaking without Christ and so are walking in much darkness. They therefore cannot be depended upon for wisdom and direction.
Quite possibly in response to Pastor Simpson‘s reference to the sinful redefinition of marriage, a woman came up to him, as he was preaching, and asked if lesbians are going to hell.
He replied that all people without exception who do not repent of sin and trust in Christ will indeed suffer God’s everlasting condemnation, and this includes, for example, heterosexual people who engage in fornication outside of marriage.
The young woman then asked what is wrong with two women loving each other, and where in the Bible is it ever condemned? The Penn minister replied that lesbian relationships are specifically referred to in the Bible in Romans chapter 1, where the apostle Paul speaks of two women engaging in such a relationship as being contrary to nature. Of course, two women can be very close friends of one another, but to have a relationship on a par with a man-woman union is sinful in the sight of God.
The woman then appeared to ask about the relaxed attitude within the Church of England to homosexual relationships, and at this stage Mrs Pilkington, who was standing nearby, took up the conversation with the lady and another young woman who was with her.
Initially, they were quite confrontational towards her and strongly rejecting of the gospel, but they gradually appeared to soften. They clearly had no concept of the gospel at all and were amazed by the witnessing sister’s explanation of sin and forgiveness. By God’s grace, they appeared to become a little more receptive, and seemed genuinely interested when offered a Bible along with a suggestion of where to start reading.
At one stage, as Pastor Sherwood was preaching, a biker riding a very powerful machine, who obviously did not like the preaching, came in front of the minister and deliberately revved up his engine as loud as he could in order to drown out the proclamation of God’s word.
One is reminded of the entry in John Wesley’s Journal on May 19th 1745, “I preached at High Wycombe in an open place to a mix multitude, some of whom were as rude as they dared to be”. Then on September 25th 1746 he writes, “I came to Wycombe. It being the day in which the mayor was chosen, (an) abundance of rabble … came to the preaching on purpose to disturb”. Some years later, on October 20th 1777 Mr Wesley had to stop preaching in the Methodist preaching house because an opponent had “procured a drummer to beat his drum at the window”, meaning that he could not be heard properly. Human nature never changes! Thankfully, the biker did not persist in his deafening revving up for very long.
The witnessing brethren in fact took encouragement from this display of God-rejecting defiance, because it was evidence that the proclamation of the word of God was indeed having an effect upon the hearers, albeit at this stage a negative one. People were very conscious of the Christians’ presence. The vital point is is that the lost were being challenged and are without excuse for their ongoing rejection of the precious gospel – which it is such a privilege to be able to hear.
May many who heard the gospel in High Wycombe upon this day realise the spiritual darkness that they are in and come to him who is the light of the world, He alone who can wash them clean from all their sins.