“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21).
I went back to High School and found it was easier to preach to unsaved people about Christ. As a fiery young convert I would reprimand the youth group in my church for their worldliness and met up with resistance. So, fellowship was slim. But God opened up the hearts of people from all different Christian backgrounds to be our fellowship.
We met a group of teens who were from various evangelical backgrounds and got hooked up with a group called the High School Born Againer’s or Hi BA’s. Rod Burnett and Rick Kirschman sacrificed their time and energy to equip us to be missionaries in our High School. They were a huge encouragement and resource to this group of teenagers in Staten Island and in fact, had influence in all five borough’s.
It was agreed by the group in our High School that we would meet in the cafeteria for Bible study in the morning before classes. We started meeting during breakfast. I know that several different people were leading Bible study and we had every intention of keeping it a public witness. I arrived one morning at the end of that week and the cafeteria was full of rowdy teenagers. I had the feeling they were waiting for our group. Teenagers can be so obvious. We had a good crowd for Bible study. I was elected to teach Bible study that day for some reason.
None of the things that followed were my intention but they still took place in reaction to my preaching.
I guess how things got started was there were no chairs left at our table so I decided I would stand. At this point in time, I cannot remember what text I used, but I as I began to teach, some kid behind me starts mocking. The crowd started laughing like patients in an asylum for the deranged. I realized that I would not be able to teach Bible study without addressing them with the only defense I had, the Word of God.
I continued to speak and tell the kids about how Christ died for them and their need of salvation. Some of the kids were listening intently others were just acting nuts. I felt the Holy Spirit guiding my words. I looked and saw another kid walking around and yelling saying, ‘Hallelujah, pass the offering plate!” Then they started proving the inevitable result of the school’s policy of teaching the theory of evolution: they were making baboon like noises, banging garbage cans and then the food started flying-bagels were on the menu that day-it figures. One got real close to my face and hit one of my friends.
The Bible group was shocked. Everyone in the cafeteria went crazy.
Out of no where four of the school police surrounded me. I thought, “OK I am suspended.” I asked them why they taking me away. I had done nothing wrong. They said it was for my protection. They asked me to grab my books and follow them and I complied. My friends were deeply concerned for me and wanted to go with me but the school police would not let them. The escorted me through the teachers lounge and up the stairs to the deans office.
The guards explained the situation to the Dean and he contorted his neck as he looked out of his office. I sat there waiting. Later he came over to me he looked at me and asked me, “You will make sure this does not happen again, right?”
I said to him, “We will talk about it later.” He looked at me surprised because he did not expect that reply.
I realized now the chutzpah it took to say that. I would not agree to stop preaching the gospel even if it meant my suspension.
Their solution at that time was send me to our very eccentric guidance counselor. She pulled out my records of course and there was no instance of misbehavior. She called my home and my mother answered and she explained to her that I was proselytizing in the cafeteria and we had caused a riot. My Mom was the wrong person to tell that, “What’s wrong with that we have freedom of speech.” The guidance counselor had to listen to my Mom for a while, and attempted to stutter her replies, so it was not a pleasant experience for her.
It was almost 3rd period and asked me to wait in study hall so I went to library. Everyone who I passed on my way there saw me knew what happened. Everyone in the library looked up and knew what had happened. It seemed as the entire school knew. I was excited because the gospel was getting noticed! I sat down and opened up my Bible and I began to read this passage Paul wrote while under house arrest:
“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places. And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:12-21).
I was allowed to go into my bookkeeping class and everyone looked at me there as well. They knew all about what happened. The expected some response from me so I told them, “We have them heaven!” I said.
The teacher smiled, but had a nervous look on their face like he really wanted me to sit down-who knows what he thought I would do in class and the kids shook their heads and I continued on with my day.
Later we ended up meeting the principal, my Pastor and parents. They agreed to let us have a classroom room before curriculum time. When I left that high school the Bible study continued until they stopped it because of politics- only to have to reinstate them because of the Equal Access Act passed in 1984.
It is amazing how God can use anyone in his service-even a person like me. The news of God’s exploits in my life were getting around. I was now a radical Christian for sure and I liked it.
©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.