Michael F. Haverluck
After more than 40 years of bringing the Gospel to a fallen world, international evangelist Ray Comfort has shown no sign of slowing down.
In fact, on the native New Zealander’s latest road trip, he took it in the opposite direction.
After delivering the Word of God at the break-neck speed of 13 European nations in 13 days, Comfort took a breather to explain his blitzkrieg battle for souls across the former Roman Empire.
“It certainly was a fly-by-the-seat of our pants trip,” Comfort told WND in an exclusive interview. “We originally intended to rent a London bus and drive across Europe, but after giving some thought, we decided that fast trains would be much more expedient – because of the large distances and time involved. We often found ourselves running from train to train.”
But does the cultural and language barrier, coupled with the virtually impossible time constraints, make evangelizing Europe a daunting task only the most experienced street preachers could pull off?
“Many of us have the thought that to reach the lost in foreign countries, we have to speak like them for some time before we can reach them with the Gospel,” said Comfort, founder and CEO of Living Waters Publications. “We wanted to show that any of us can relate to any culture with the message of everlasting life almost instantly, with a little guidance and a good interpreter.”
On The Way of the Master’s Season Four, titled “Mission Europe,” along with Season One, Season Two and Season Three – Comfort demonstrates why touching the heart of the lost isn’t an insurmountable task
“This is because God has given every human being a will to live – a heart cry of, ‘Oh, I don’t want to die!’” said Comfort, director of “180: Changing Hearts and Minds about Life’s Hot-topic Issues,” which went viral on YouTube with more than 3.6 million views. “That can be tapped into by a good open air preacher.”
And he lays out the fundamentals that make everyone a prime candidate to deliver or receive the message of salvation.
“Plus, every one of us has an intuitive knowledge of right and wrong,” Comfort asserts. “While the conscience may be shaped by society, it is primarily given to us by our Creator, and this is the faithful ally that responds to the Gospel when it is presented biblically.”
Off to the races
Just how ambitious was the itinerary of Comfort and his crew, which included WOTM’s co-host Kirk Cameron?
“We filmed in 13 European cities in 13 countries in 13 days, including Milan, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Brussels, Vienna, Budapest, Monaco, Romania and Germany (at its infamous Oktoberfest),” relayed the untiring Comfort.
After recounting his stops, Comfort was asked whether there was any reason behind the sequence of visits his team ended up choosing.
“The order of the countries was chosen solely for expediency because of the pressure to get to 13 countries in 13 days,” he said.
Of all these places, where did Comfort see the most people flocking around him and his team?
“That was [Prague] in the Czech Republic,” the street preacher reported. “What an amazing city! We felt as though we had stepped into a Disney movie – with all the quaint buildings, the tidy and narrow cobblestone streets and Pinocchio puppets hanging outside of the stores.”
Comfort, whose ministry is based in Bellflower, Calif. – just miles from “The Happiest Place on Earth” – was happy to find such a great venue for a following.
“In the heart of the city is a massive clock that every hour has the disciples come out for a jaunt in the sunlight,” Comfort recalled. “About 3,000 people stand around and watch it. It was the perfect springboard for the Gospel, so I stood up and explained what the message was behind the clock and preached the Gospel. It was a wonderful opportunity.
“We also had the honor of preaching open air . . . in Budapest and other places [where] we obtained some wonderful witnessing interviews that were clearly divine encounters,” continued Comfort.
And how about the toughest spot?
“The least receptive of all the countries was Monaco, on the French Riviera,” Comfort said. “We had requested an interview with Prince Albert, the king of Monaco, and not only did the authorities turn us down – they didn’t want us filming on their streets, let alone preaching in the open air.”
But despite the pall of challenges, the light of opportunity still peeked through.
“On top of that, the weather turned bad on us the day we arrived, and it poured with rain,” recalled Comfort, who authored “The Defender’s Guide for Life’s Toughest Questions.” “The only place our camera crew could find shelter (along with a crowd of tourists) was under a large store’ canopy, right in front of the entrance to the prince” palace. Our tour coordinator asked the store owner if we could preach the Gospel to the crowd, and to our surprise, he said that we could. So the Gospel was preached on private property right in front of the palace, and I didn’t end up in the king’s dungeon!”
Monaco wasn’t the only nation hostile to God’s Word.
“We had a huge crowd in Milan, but just as I concluded preaching, a man approached me and began to angrily speak in very animated Italian,” related the best-selling author. “He turned out to be the top police officer – in plain clothes – and he and his uniformed officers took me and our photographer and held us for over an hour. They threatened to
confiscate our cameras and talked about big fines. At one point, we thought they were going to toss us in jail, but then something amazing happened.”
Comfort explained the turn of events.
“He was angry with me, saying that we had taken his photo when he was a police officer in plain clothes,” Comfort recounted. “Then he threatened to confiscate our camera gear. The team could see that things were serious, so they gathered for prayer. After about an hour, he suddenly changed his mind, had me sign something saying that I was a ‘transgressor,’ strangely posed for a photo with me, and then let me go.”
Reception to the north wasn’t that much warmer, when Comfort and his crew were looking forward to a hot breakfast featuring authentic Belgian waffles.
“When we were in Belgium in the early hours of one morning, I began preaching and found myself surrounded by an angry crowd of drunken men and heard one of them yell, ‘Get him!’” the bold street preacher retold. “That was a little scary.”
Europe’s spiritual thermometer
With most of Europe considered to be post-Christian, was it more difficult to evangelize there than in America?
“It was a little tougher, but that was only because Europeans are more conservative in nature than most Americans,” Comfort explained. “The shell was a little harder to crack, but once that had been broken, they were just like every other human being – lost, in darkness, fearful of death, with a multitude of sins.”
When traveling abroad, Comfort makes it a point not to export America’s “prosperity gospel.”
“We were careful not to fall into the trap of preaching the false and popular American gospel of ‘God has a wonderful plan for your life,’” Comfort continued. “We stayed with the biblical Gospel, and they made it relevant to every person. (I wrote a book on the subject called ‘God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life,’ with a cover picture of Stephen being stoned to death).”
So does the veteran evangelist have specific plans customized for the various spiritual climates in Europe?
“It was the same strategy in each country, while making sure that we were culturally sensitive,” Comfort pointed out. “That’s what the Apostle Paul did in Athens (in Acts 17). He wanted to confront them about their sin of idolatry, but he did so gently by quoting local poets and reasoning with his hearers. So we were always courteous and usually began by saying something endearing to the crowd.”
In Romania, Comfort told how his team member, Emeal Zwayne, casually addressed the students in their native tongue with, “What’s up dudes?” which was warmly received.
“It’s amazing what you can say to a crowd if you can make them smile,” says Comfort.
And the time during the tour when Comfort believed God was most powerfully working?
“That’s a difficult question because I don’t take much notice of my feelings,” admitted Comfort, author of “God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists.” “It’s like planting seed. It really doesn’t matter too much who is doing the planting – as long as it’s good seed and it’s falling on good soil.”
Comfort makes it clear that he’s not concerned with producing headcounts of those proclaiming a commitment to Christ, emphasizing that his ministry’s job is just to get the Word out.
“Our team is trained in the principles of biblical evangelism, and that means we do what Jesus did and prepare the soil before we planted the seed of the Gospel,” Comfort said. “This was the key to the successful preaching of men like Wesley, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Luther, etc. They always took the time to prepare the soil of the human heart by opening up the moral law (the Ten Commandments) before they preach the grace and mercy of God. Failure to do so almost always fills the church with false converts. Having said that, I have to add that we were always cognizant of God working through us (and humbled by that fact), because we knew we were preaching His Gospel.”
Was their anything that made the difficult task of communicating the Gospel to a hardened audience easier along the road?
“We were often given gifts of chocolate and received a warm reception from Christians in every country we visited,” the energetic evangelist recollected. “Fifty people came out onto the streets with us in London, and it was similar in the other countries. We had to keep reminding ourselves that our TV program is aired in 123 counties and on over 50 Christian networks, and so we had a lot of friends who appreciated the ministry. That was encouraging because TV production means a lot of work in a studio, and it was great to get out there and meet some of our audience.”
When asked about the greatest thing he thought viewers would take from watching Season Four, Comfort had this to say: “I hope that they will be challenged to share the Gospel in the own sphere of influence … and that influence is as broad as you want to make it,” he shared. “The series teaches how to pull in a crowd, how to hold their attention, how to handle hecklers to your advantage, how to make an atheist backslide, how to refute the foolishness of the unscientific theory of evolution, what not to do, and how to overcome the fear of ‘drying up’ or not being able to answer a difficult question. All you need is a little courage. Anyone can do this and make their life count for something eternal.”
And the best advice Comfort has for those considering witnessing in Europe?
“Don’t be afraid of the stupidity of atheism,” said the author of “You Can Lead an Atheist to Water, but You Can’t Make Him Think.” “There is nothing intellectual about it. It seems that most of Europe has embraced belief, but when you’ve had a little training in the principles of biblical evangelism, that isn’t a problem. Most atheists backslide in seconds when asked one thought-provoking question: ‘Do you believe that nothing created everything – a scientific impossibility?’”
Comfort contends that the heart of his ministry has never changed.
“Our aim, as a non-profit para-church ministry, is to get Christians out of the pews into the market place,” the longtime street preacher maintains. “That’s why we exist, and one of our foundational teachings is to convince the Church that this world loves the darkness, hates the light, and as the Bible says, they won’t come to the light.”
He asserts that getting the Word out is proactive – not reactive.
“They are not going to come to us,” Comfort insists. “If we care, we have to go to them with the message of eternal life, and we can show you how to biblically and effectively do that through open air preaching. There are 70 million professing Christians in American. If just one in 70 decided that he or she was going to obey the Great Commission and ‘preach’ the Gospel to every creature, it would mean a million Christians would stand up and give light to our dark nation. That will turn the country right side up.”
Comfort told WND that he’s never been more excited about any TV series than “Mission Europe,” noting the talent and creativity of Cameron and others on his crew, such as WOTM editor Eddie Roman, who also worked on productions for Billy Graham and Greg Laurie.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that with this series, they have taken Christian TV to a whole new level,” Comfort said.
He concluded by sharing accolades given to him from a most unlikely viewer.
“One atheist expressed it well in a response to his atheist friends about the program,” Comfort shared. “He wrote, ‘Say what you want about the content of ‘The Way of the Master,’ but the show is produced with skill.’”