Pastor’s evangelism passion evident at Fort Worth church thriving near housing project

FORT WORTH?Jason was panhandling for beer money outside a gas station one Wednesday night where Damon Halliday stopped to buy a Pepsi.

Hungry, homeless and half-drunk, Jason (not his real name) approached Halliday, pastor of Keystone Community Outreach Church, located in the middle of a Fort Worth housing project. “Jason asked to borrow a dollar, but I told him I couldn’t do that if he’d buy beer with it,” recalled Halliday, who continued talking with Jason and soon mentioned Jesus.

“God doesn’t love me,” Jason barked. “God has abandoned me. God has forsaken me. I have no reason to live. I’ve lost my job and my family.”

“Any time I mentioned God, Jason got irate,” Halliday said. “But I could tell he was an intelligent man, and the Lord showed me how to reach him.”

Halliday said he recalled what Alan Streett, professor of evangelism at Criswell College, taught about two kinds of evangelists: one proclaims the truths of God, which some people debate. The other is a witness: a person who tells others about their personal and undebatable experience with God.

“You can’t tell me that I don’t love you,” Halliday told Jason.

“Well, I guess I can’t,” Jason replied.

“I do, so give me a hug,” Halliday insisted.

The black preacher and white alcoholic hugged.

“Mark, you can’t tell me that I don’t know that God loves you,” Halliday continued.

“You’re getting a little tricky now,” Jason said.

“God told me to tell you he loves you and he wants me to give you another hug,” Halliday replied.

Reticent to elicit a response to the gospel from a drunk man, Halliday gave Jason his business card and said, “I’m committed to help you, and I will as much as I can. But you need to have sober judgment. Call me tomorrow.”

To Halliday’s surprise, Jason called. The men met for two hours, but Jason was still hostile toward God and the church.

“You keep trying to rationalize this thing,” Halliday told Jason. “If you’ll surrender your life to God, I guarantee he will change it.”

Jason prayed penitently and also committed his life to Christ that day.

“The day before, this guy was suicidal and homeless,” Halliday said. “But the next
day, he comes to church to find God, and I find out he’s a computer genius with a four-page resume and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Jason is the greatest example of how a commitment to practice and teach evangelism blesses an individual and the body of Christ, Halliday said.

“He has impacted the church with his amazing giftedness, and he is committed to build the body of Christ too,” he added, saying that Jason, within a week of his own salvation experience, brought a friend to church who also became a Christian. The two were baptized on the same day.

Halliday said Jason was just the guy God had in mind to format and operate Keystone’s new audio/visual system.

“God sent Jason to handle that ministry,” Halliday said. “And in 10 weeks’ time, God restored almost every good thing in his life,” including a reunion with his children and a job in the computer field.

“That’s a picture of what God has called us to do. And when we do what we’re supposed to do, God is glorified, people are saved and the church grows,” Halliday said, adding that he wonders what would’ve happened if he just gave Jason a dollar and kept on walking.

Church in the ‘hood

Founded more than 20 years ago, Keystone’s attendance had dwindled to about a dozen. The pastor was in ill health and looking for a successor. Two years ago, Halliday?who had left his mechanic job with American Airlines to attend college and prepare for ministry?met with the retiring pastor. That was Halliday’s introduction to his first pastorate.

Halliday couldn’t think of a better location for a church?in a notorious Fort Worth neighborhood known as Stop 6. Named after a rail-line station, Stop 6 is rife with prostitution, drugs and gang activity.
Additionally, the church sits inside a government housing project. To Halliday’s thinking, the church is strategically positioned for proclaiming Jesus Christ.

“The reason God sent me here is because I’m a product of the same kind of environment,” Halliday said. “I grew up in the inner city of West Philadelphia. It was a lo

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