You can find all kinds of things at the mall. But it's not often you go there and find Christ! Rich and Charlene Sevcik tell how a trip to their local mall led them to start a ministry in a kiosk there.
You can find all kinds of things at the mall. But it's not often you go there and find Christ! Rich and Charlene Sevcik tell how a trip to their local mall led them to start a ministry in a kiosk there.
Bob: Rich Sevcik has set up shop in his local mall. A couple of times a year he and some friends rent one of those kiosks and they spend their day engaging people, not selling them a product, but sharing with them the good news of the gospel. And Rich says they are seeing people stop, they’re sharing the gospel with them, and they’re seeing folks come to faith.
Rich: So as I get out there and as I share my faith, God is blessing me. Not only is he blessing me in terms of lighting a fire in my heart and turning me on to Christ, but he’s also blessing us because the greatest miracle in the world is salvation. We get into the mall and we get to see that happen a few times a day!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There’s a lot happening at your local mall here in the week before Christmas, but we want you to stop today and think about what could be happening all different times during the year. We’ll talk about it today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. When I was growing up there used to be a special that would come on TV about this time of year – a musical about the birth of Christ called Ahmal and the Night Visitors. Do you remember that? Ever hear of Ahmal and the Night Visitors?
Bob: Yeah. It wasn’t ‘a mall’ like the shopping mall. That was the character’s name, ‘Ahmal.’
Dennis: Oh, Ahmal.
Bob: But I always heard it and I would think about people going to the mall and the night visitors.
Dennis: Well, we are going to talk about
Bob: A mall.
Dennis: A mall, but not the guy, the place. And to do that I want to introduce you to a guy who made chips for a living. I know this because he gave me a couple of chips. I want to welcome Rich and Charlene Sevcik to our broadcast. Charlene, Rich, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Rich: Well, thank you for having us.
Charlene: Thank you.
Dennis: I want you to explain to our listeners. First of all, this first chip right here was when you worked at Xilinx. You also worked at Hewlett Packard for twenty years in the semiconductor business. This little chip right here – what is it, about an inch square?
Rich: Well, the package you’re holding is about an inch square, but the chip that’s inside of it is probably about a half-inch on edge. One of the reasons why I gave you that chip was that’s actually a famous chip.
That was one of the, maybe the first chip actually manufactured with one billion transistors on the die – what’s called the ‘die.’ So that chip actually was a record-breaking chip. We put out a press release back in those days and made a big deal about it.
Bob: Wait a second. There are a billion transistors in that . . .
Rich: That’s right.
Bob: It’s as thin – looks like a piece of chocolate.
Dennis: It does kind of look like . . .
Bob: Of course a lot of things look like a piece of chocolate to me, don’t they? But there are a billion transistors in this.
Rich: There are a billion transistors. Of course now, by the way, more recently there are chips that have five and ten billion transistors on them in the industry today, but that chip that you’re holding I think is about seven years old, and it was a billion transistors. That was a record.
Dennis: A billion transistors. That’s astounding. But the thing that really excites me about your lives – it’s what happened as a result of you retiring and going to a movie in a mall, not Ahmal.
Dennis: Share with our listeners what happened. Was it a Friday night, Saturday, Charlene?
Charlene: Yes, I think it was a Friday night and we were just planning to see a movie and we were sitting in the food court just watching the people pass while we were waiting for our show time, and we saw all these young people passing by, hundreds of them, and they were just milling around in the mall. They had their spiked hair and their tattoos and their gang member jackets, and we just thought, “How sad it is. I bet none of these young people go to church.” They just looked unchurched. God placed it on our hearts that we need to reach these young people because they’re not going to come to our churches. We need as the church to go outside our buildings and maybe find a way to reach the people that are lost.
So after a few months God placed it on our hearts to open up a kiosk in the mall. So we went through mall management, got the approvals, got all the okays from the mall to go in there, and we called the kiosk “God Talk,” because we wanted to let people know we’re talking about faith, and we could reach all different faiths by using “God Talk.” It gave us a platform to talk about Jesus Christ and share our faith.
We started this over five and one-half years ago. We go in twice a year; we go at Easter time, and then we go again at August for school shopping, because that’s a busier time. We don’t sell anything. Most of the vendors there are selling products. We give everything away. We love doing this.
Bob: So this is in the middle of the mall aisle there. You’ve got one of these carts like we see.
Bob: You have posters and books – what have you got. If I walk by, what am I going to see, Rich?
Rich: It was kind of funny when we first approached the mall management. We were thinking that maybe we would open up a store front and the mall management explained to us that it costs about $100,000 a month to have a store in a mall, and we weren’t going to do that. We have a great church, but we couldn’t afford that one. But then the general manager of the mall, who I think was – You know, God was in this, right? So he actually suggested to us, “Why don’t you rent a kiosk?” A kiosk is about six feet by four feet.
As Dennis was saying at the beginning here, I have an engineering background, so we started thinking about this. The price was right and then, Bob, to get to your point, we started spending a little time in the mall and looking at where the traffic was. So we picked a crosswalk where we thought the most traffic was, where shoppers are just walking from one large store to another large store.
As they were walking by we figured, “We’ll just hang up a big sign that says ‘God Talk,’” because we’re not trying to fool anybody. We’re not trying to trick anybody, so we just hang up a big sign that says “God Talk” and people – shoppers – go walking by and you’d be amazed at the reaction we get.
People will look at our sign – of course, some of them are going to frown and kind of give you an evil look – but most of them have this look of surprise. It’s almost like, "What is God doing in the mall? What’s the church doing in the mall?” Very often, because of that surprise, people will just stop and talk to us. Very often, somebody will stop and say “What are you guys doing here?” Of course, we’re there to talk about Jesus.
Even with a lot of our volunteers, we’ll try to train ourselves and train volunteers to, as quickly as possible and in a polite way, lead the conversation to Jesus, and lead the conversation to godly topics. It’s just been an exciting time in a mall.
Dennis: You know, the exciting thing to me is, and I don’t have anything against the South – we live in the South – you’re not doing this anywhere near the Bible Belt.
Rich: That’s right. In fact, being an engineer I look into statistics. In the Bay area, San Jose Bay area where we live, Silicon Valley, statistically only six percent of people in the Bay go to church on a regular basis. Six percent.
So that basically tells us that ninety-plus percent of the people that we encounter in the mall are going to be unchurched. We like to refer to them as “not yet saved” people. So our job, as Jesus commanded, our job is to present the gospel to these not yet saved people.
Dennis: It’s not about church attendance.
Dennis: It’s about the person of Jesus Christ, his finished work on the cross, the empty tomb that we celebrate at Easter, and proclaiming the good news of Christ to people who have never heard it.
Bob: But I can imagine, Charlene, being in the mall and somebody coming up and saying, “So what are you guys doing here?” and you say, “Oh we’re here to share the good news about Jesus.”
At that point, things could get awkward, or they could get even a little ugly. I could imagine some people wanting to take you on, wanting to challenge you, ‘let’s turn this into a debate.’ Does that happen?
Charlene: It does occasionally, but those are very few, and usually, if they try to engage us in that way we just say, “Well, thank you so much for stopping by. We really appreciate it. We can give you some literature to take with you, but we need to talk to other people at this time.”
Dennis: So it’s not about arguing.
Charlene: No. Oh definitely not. We’re not trying the bang them on the head. The age group that we really talk with the most, which is the one that we had started out with this mission in mind – 13 year-olds to 29 year-olds.
Of course there are all ages that we talk with, but that’s the greatest number, and these young people are so precious and they’re so open to hearing. They’ve never heard. They’re not getting it – their parents don’t go to church, therefore they don’t go, and we’re giving them some good news that they haven’t heard before. We’re telling them that they have hope.
When I’m in the mall I talk with them just like I would talk with my own kids. I’ll say, “What are you doing with your life?” They’ll say, “We’re into drugs” or “We’re into sex.” I said, “So stop it. This is not the right way. You need to change, you know, and God can help you make those changes.”
I’ll just be sharing like I would with my own kids. Like I will say, “So stop it.” We had a great magazine called Make a U-Turn. “Turn your life around. Turn it to Jesus and he can help you.” I’ll say, “How is your life working right now? Are you happy? Is your home life good?”
Some guys will come through and they’ll say, “We’re homeless. We’re on the streets,” and I’ll say, “Why?” And they’ll say, “Well my mother is a drug addict, or she’s drunk at home.” They have all kinds of issues that these young people are dealing with, but I say, “Is that working for you? You can change your life right now with Jesus Christ. He can give you hope and a future.” We have great opportunities just to open up. If you’re showing these kids love and care they are really open.
Rich: One time we had this situation: Charlene and I happened to be working in a mall together with another one of our volunteers and I looked down the hallway and there were these five guys coming down the hall. They were like 17 to 21 years old. They were clearly gang members; they were dressed like it and they were acting like jerks.
They come walking down, and as they got close, there was one big fellow (he was about 6’7”) and I just looked at him and I said, “Hey, God wants to talk to you.” He looked at me and he said, “Well, what does God want to say?” “Well, God wants to tell you that he loves you.” He looked at me and he stopped, and the other four guys that were with him all stopped too.
So Charlene and I and this other volunteer lady – the three of us engaged these five guys in a godly conversation. To make a long story short, we spent about an hour and a half with them. After about 15 minutes a couple of the guys dropped out, because we were telling them about salvation and following Jesus and making him the Lord of your life and changing your life as Charlene was saying, but the tall guy stayed.
His name is Jay, and what happened was, after about 45 minutes, Jay prayed with us to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior right there in the mall. By then the other four guys had dropped out, but Jay stayed.
What was interesting during those first 45 minutes as we were talking to Jay, he had his cell phone blue tooth in his ear, and about every three or four minutes he would step away from us, he would take about a 20 second phone call, and then he would come back and talk to us again.
After he got saved, we asked him what was going on with the phone calls. He explained to us that he was the head of a 25-member gang who were doing drugs and all kinds of bad stuff in the San Jose area, including in the mall. They were stealing in the mall and selling drugs in the mall, and he was the head, and basically each one of those calls was a drug deal going down. He had to approve the price.
So he was taking these phone calls while we were talking to him about Jesus, and then he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, and then we talked to him for another 45 minutes. At one point—the guy was really a bright guy; I was really impressed – he looked at me and he said, “Well, I guess now that I’m following Jesus I’m going to have to leave the gang, and I can’t do drugs anymore.” And I said, “Well, you’re exactly right, Jay. You’ve got to find a job – and if I can support you I’ll support you – whatever.
So to make a long story short, whenever people accept Christ in the mall we always try to follow up with them. And so for the next few weeks we stayed in contact with Jay. He actually quit the gang, he started going to a Bible-based church with his grandmother. His grandmother actually had taken him to a Bible-based church when he was five, so he went back to that church in San Jose. He got a job, and then after a few weeks, he disconnected his cell phone so we lost contact with him, so we’re hoping he disconnected his cell phone because he was trying to get out of the gang. We’re not exactly certain what happened to him in the long term, but he certainly prayed with us and we followed up with him for a few weeks. So that’s the kind of thing – Jesus changes lives, right?
Dennis: He does. When you were sharing this with me, I guess about a year ago – we were on the phone—I just remember getting so excited. I walked into Bob’s office and I said, “Bob, we’ve got to tell this story on FamilyLife Today.” But I want to prove something here just real quickly. How many years in seminary have you spent, Rich?
Rich: Absolutely zero.
Dennis: Charlene, how about you?
Dennis: Now wait a second. So you’re not paid to be good, here. You’re not working for a church . . .
Rich: Absolutely not.
Dennis: You’re doing this coming out of retirement.
Dennis: Just as church members. . . .
Dennis: Who have the love of Christ in your hearts and you’re concerned about the young people because you want to do something for them that will give them forgiveness with God, peace, purpose, and a place to belong.
Bob: So you’ve got a group of folks that are pitching in to pay the bill for the kiosk there in the mall?
Rich: Actually not. No. Fortunately, it’s relatively inexpensive. You have to pay rent for the kiosk and we have to have liability insurance and we do a daily raffle, so to make a long story short, the cost in the mall comes to about $80 per day, and for those $80 we get to talk to about 70 or 80 people a day. So the cost per contact is actually extremely low. So it’s not that much money. The issue here is not money. The issue is, as I think Dennis is alluding to, we as Christians need to get out and talk to others about Christ. We need to share our faith.
One of the things Charlene and I – especially I have found, is the more I talk to people about my faith, the more on fire for Christ I am. Philemon 6 is an interesting verse. Basically Paul says to Philemon, “I pray that you are actively sharing your faith so that you may more fully know your God.” It’s a promise.
As I get out there and I share my faith, God is blessing me. Not only is he blessing me in terms of lighting a fire in my heart and turning me on to Christ, but he’s also blessing us because the greatest miracle in the world is salvation. We get into the mall and we get to see that happen a few times a day! It’s amazing.
Charlene: One of the materials that we used when we first opened up five and a half years ago was a magazine by Billy Graham called Heaven and Hell. I have a copy over here. It was my favorite magazine because I said, “That’s exactly why we are in the mall.
As Christians we know that there is a heaven, but we also know that there is a hell. And if we don’t start sharing our faith, people – our loved ones, our family members, are going to go to hell.” So that magazine was so used by God. We’ve used all of Billy Graham’s copies up of that magazine. We’re hoping that by being in the mall that we’re planting seeds. If people don’t stop and talk with us we can give them some literature that they can take home with them and read later. Maybe months later they’ll pick it up and read it. It’s just a great opportunity.
Dennis: Charlene, you really are – you’re moved to the point of tears thinking about people spending eternity outside of Christ.
Charlene: We have the answer. We have the hope as Christians, and God commands us to go out there and tell – tell them, tell them that Jesus Christ loves them. We see it in the mall so many times.
When we talk to these young people and we tell them, “Jesus Christ loves you. He loves you right where you are, right now, but He doesn’t want to leave you this way. He wants you to change. He wants you to turn your life around and follow Him.”
It’s given us that great opportunity and it is such a joy and a blessing that God gave us this ministry called “God Talk,” and we’re hoping that this ministry will not only just be for us – that it will go across the country, that people will hear this message and realize that they can go and talk with their mall management and go into the mall. We have open opportunity but we as Christians have to take that and move out.
Rich: You know, in the last several years we spent a lot of our time recruiting lots of volunteers and lots of churches. We actually in the Bay area have eight partner churches that work with us in this mall.
We have over 400 or 500 different volunteers. We spent a lot of time recruiting, and honestly, what we usually do when we recruit – talk to somebody about possibly coming into the mall and sharing their faith – about 99% of the time people will say, “No, that’s not my gift.” So, just to be blatant about this, I’ve investigated that.
Witnessing is not a gift. Witnessing is a command from Jesus; it occurs at the end of the gospel of Matthew. Now evangelism is a gift, so guys like Billy Graham and Luis Palau and people like that – that’s evangelism. That’s the gift. Being a witness is a command from Jesus, right?
All of us Christians are actually commanded to be a witness. We’re commanded to live holy lives, so that our lives are a witness, but we also have to move our lips and vocalize our love for Jesus, talk to our neighbors about Jesus.
I saw a recent survey, and sadly, only two percent of the Christians in the United States are actually talking to their neighbors about Jesus. Most of my Christian life I was not witnessing either. I was kind of laid back and busy working and maybe letting the wrong things preoccupy my time in terms of spending too many hours at work.
But during the last 15 to 20 years I’ve come to realize -- and I’ve had some great examples in my life – that we need to be out there and be witnessing. So when we talk to potential new churches to join us and we talk to pastors, we’re basically encouraging the Christian community to get out – get out of the walls of the church, share the gospel in a friendly, friendly way. As Dennis was saying, you’re never going to argue somebody into salvation.
Rich: We’re not going to debate people into salvation. So what you want to do is be loving, be kind, be friendly, and ultimately this is the work of the Holy Spirit, right? Our job is to plant and water, but it’s only God that can make the seed grow.
Dennis: You know, the Bible spells out a lot of things that are happening right now in heaven. I don’t know for sure that this is happening, but there’s a guy who’s in heaven right now – his name is Bill Bright – who was founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. He died a few years ago, and I promise – well, I can’t promise you because I don’t know for sure – because Bob is going to correct me if I say I promise – but Bill is throwing his hands up, he’s hitting his lap, he’s laughing, he’s clapping, and he’s going, “Way to go. Way to go.”
Bob: If he’s tuned in to FamilyLife Today. We don’t know that they get it in heaven.
Dennis: He would not be listening to another broadcast, Bob. This would be the preferred broadcast of choice.
Bob: The celestial program, right?
Rich: This could be on loudspeakers.
Dennis: But seriously, Bill was all about the Great Commission, and he believed the greatest privilege we have is just as you said, Charlene, earlier: to introduce someone to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to give them the opportunity to embrace Christ’s finished work on the cross on their behalf, and to believe, and then, like the gang leader, become a follower.
Rich: Right. Right.
Dennis: I think for our nation it’s the only hope. The gospel is the only hope for the United States.
Bob: And you guys have not only modeled this, but you’ve come up with a way to share your experience with others so that if somebody in another community said, “I’d like to do that. Our church could do that. We could get together with some other churches and we could make a project out of that,” they can benefit from the experience that you guys have had. If you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, there’s a link to Rich’s website and there he kind of lays out the whole process, and shares again from their experience – what to say to the mall manager, kind of the do’s and the don’ts, how to recruit volunteers, the whole thing. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link and you’ll get the information you need.
If you do this, if you get together with some friends or your church does it, let us know. Send us a note and tell us about your experience and what it was like. I just think it would be cool if the next time that you went to the mall – in virtually in every mall in America there was a kiosk like this set up – what a great way to . . . . It’s like going to the well in Samaria. If the mall is the modern day well in Samaria – it’s like going there and engaging people in conversation about the gospel.
Again, our website FamilyLifeToday.com; click on the link that will take you to Rich’s website, and you can get the information you need to set this up. And then be sure to let us know if you do something like this.
And then before we’re done here today, a quick reminder if I can about the matching gift opportunity that’s been made available to us here during the month of December. More than $2 million has been set aside from friends of the ministry who have said, “We will match the donations that come into FamilyLife during the month of December on a dollar for dollar basis, as a way to try to encourage regular listeners to help support the ministry.”
These are folks who appreciate FamilyLife Today, some of them have been to our Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaways, they’ve used the resources that we have and they want to see the program continue to stay stable and to grow. So they’ve said, “We want to encourage others to join with us.”
When you make a donation this month of any amount, that donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar. So whether it’s $10 or $100 or $1000 or more, they’ll match that donation dollar for dollar up to a total of now more than $2 million. We’re not there yet, so we’re hoping that you’ll go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or that you’ll call us a 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone. We’ve got just a couple weeks left now in the month and so we want to encourage you to make that donation as soon as you can so that we can take advantage of this matching gift before the end of the year. Again our website: FamilyLifeToday.com or you can make a donation at 1- 800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”
Now let me encourage you to be back with us tomorrow. Rich and Charlene Sevcik are going to be here again; we’re going to talk more about their experience at the mall, not as shoppers, but as sharers, and I hope you can tune in to hear about that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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