Ray Comfort was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to answer some questions. In reading this first part of a two part interview, you will find that Ray is a man after God’s own heart with a humorous side to him as well.
Ray is a Best-selling Author & Co-Host with Kirk Cameron of The Way of the Master television program and an itinerant evangelist who is known for his sermon Hell’s Best Kept Secret (You can find it on the home page of the ministry’s website or watch it here) and his The Way of the Master evangelism training seminars and now Basic Training Course (read review here).
Christian Book Notes (CBN): Could you share how you came to know Christ as Lord and Savior?
Ray: I was born in 1949, just four years after the Second World War. My Jewish mom married a Gentile (to the horror of her parents), and Mom and Dad decided to put “Methodist” on my birth certificate, because they were concerned that there may be another Nazi-type holocaust. Despite the Methodist label, in my 22 years as a non-Christian, I was left without any real instruction about God.
I started surfing at the age of 13, left school at the age of 17, and worked in a bank for three years. During that time I met and fell in love with a beautiful girl named Sue. She was made for Comfort–a very cute 4 foot 10 inches tall.
Around that time I saw a picture of a professional surfer I admired, wearing a “fringed” cowboy jacket, so I and made one for myself. Friends so liked it, they asked me to make jackets for them. There was so much interest, I left the bank, opened a combined leather gear and surf wear store, and eventually made 250 jackets.
Sue and I were married in 1970, and late in 1971, something happened that changed my life forever. After she drifted off to sleep I looked at her and thought, “I am part of the ultimate statistic. Ten out of ten die. I have everything I want in life–my own business, a car, my own house, freedom to do what I want when I want, and a beautiful wife, but death is going to tear from my hands everything I hold dear.” I sat on the edge of the bed and wept at the futility of life.
I then decided to do all I could to ensure that I lived a long healthy life. I visited my local doctor to ask him how I could remain well, and noticed that he looked deathly sick as he sat behind his desk and breathed in the burning fumes of a cigarette. He became a mortal statistic a few years later. I then looked to science for an answer to my dilemma, and noticed that they were more concerned about putting a man on the moon than they were about the fact that death awaited all of us. There seemed to be no answer to the problem of death. I resigned myself to my utter futility and hopelessness.
Six months later (April of 1972), Sue allowed me to leave her and our newborn son and go on a surfing trip with friends. Five of us traveled about 100 miles north of my home. One of them was a Christian.
On the second night, I found myself in Graham Read’s room talking about the things of God. Earlier that evening I had read the words of Jesus: “You have heard that it was said by them of old ‘You shall not commit adultery’” and had mumbled, “Good. If there’s a Heaven I will probably get there because I haven’t committed adultery.” But then I read something that cut me in two: “But I say to you, that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” I was shocked. I thought, “Does God see my thought-life! Has he seen what I am really like? If He is going to judge me by that standard–that lust is adultery, I’m not going to make it to Heaven. I will end up in Hell!”
I remembered one incident that happened some months earlier in my store. A young lady had wanted me to make her a leather mini-skirt, and as I measured her hips I became nervous. My fear was one of committing adultery. I was happily married, but there was something in me that I couldn’t identify, that seemed to consume my want to do good.
During a 6 ½ hour conversation I suddenly understood the cross. It had never made sense to me. I believed that Jesus was the Son of God. Like most people, I prayed at night out of habit. But once I saw that I had sinned against God, and was heading for Hell, I understood the cross. I was a criminal in His eyes. God was a Judge. I had violated His Law–the Ten Commandments, but Jesus stepped in 2,000 years ago, and paid my fine. That meant that God could freely dismiss my case. He could commute my death sentence!
That night I repented and put my trust in Jesus Christ and passed from death to life. I remember thinking, “This is what I have been looking for! Thank you dear Lord–You heard my cry and saved me from death. You didn’t leave me in the dark and hopeless shadow of death. I am so grateful. Words can’t express my gratitude. What do you want me to do?” I called Sue and said, “Are you lonely?” She said “Yes I am,” so I responded, “Well don’t worry. God is with you.”
I was a new person. Brand new. I was no longer drowning in the sea of my own lusts. My feet were established on the rock of the fear of the Lord. Now I had a reason to flee from temptation–because I feared God. When temptation came, I could say with Joseph, “How could I do this thing and sin against God!”
It was radical when I was born the first time. I didn’t exist, then suddenly I did. This new birth was just as radical. I couldn’t help thinking about God, when for the previous 22 years I hadn’t given Him one moment’s serious thought. The Bible suddenly came alive. I had found everlasting life, and there are no words that can express how grateful I am for the fact that God saved me from death and Hell.
Ray: It is a book that is called, God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life. The cover is a picture of Stephen being stoned to death. It’s about how the Church has strayed from biblical evangelism by telling people that Jesus will fix all your problems—that the Christian life is a bed of roses, and they forget to tell you about all the thorns. This false gospel has filled the contemporary Church with millions of false converts.
(CBN): Aside from the Bible, what authors or books have been most influential in your walk with Christ and in your ministry?
Ray: Charles Spurgeon’s great work, Lectures to My Students has probably been the most influential.
(CBN): You and Kirk Cameron team up for street evangelization and have since written and taught an evangelism Basic Training course entitled Way of the Master. How difficult was it to write and teach that course given all of the misconceptions of what evangelism is today?
Ray: It really wasn’t too difficult for me, because I have shared a teaching called “Hell’s best kept Secret” 834 times (you can find this message on this page here). The entire Seasons 1-3 of our television program is made up of different teachings I’ve been doing for years. When you have gone over a biblical teaching that many times it becomes second nature. Kirk has a very sharp mind and a great deal of experience and with his helpful tweaking we were able to make it work for television.
(CBN): What is it like to work with Kirk Cameron?
Ray: I have loved working with Kirk. He is a genuinely nice guy–and with my humility and good looks and his ability to teach, we make a great team ;).
Ray: The School is a very comprehensive written course, while the Basic Training Course is more visual using the cream of our television program.
(CBN): What do you believe the state of evangelism to be today in the evangelical church at large? Why do you think this is the case and, if necessary, what can we do about it as believers?
Ray: With the help of God we can see the Church of the 21st century become like the Church of the 1st Century. I believe the key to seeing that is in the book, God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life.
(CBN): Late in 2011, you released 180 The Movie (Read my article on this ground breaking documentary here), what led you to produce that movie?
Ray: “180” wasn’t the video I meant to produce. I wrote a book called Hitler, God and the Bible and asked my publishers if they would like a free video to go with the book. They said they would, so I took the cream of the book’s manuscript, created a script, and obtained footage from the holocaust museum. But after a solid month of editing, we felt overwhelmed because we had too much material. So I decided to forget the script and go out to the streets with a camera and find out what people believed about Hitler. I could hardly believe what I found–14 people—mainly university students, who had no idea of the identity of Adolf Hitler. There were more who didn’t know who he was, but they were embarrassed to appear ignorant on camera.
Then we were able to film some very colorful footage of myself being heckled, on two different occasions, by two very nasty neo-Nazis. We also obtained gripping footage of a Russian Jew who lost loved ones to Nazis…all this while out on the street, with nothing pre-arranged. But the most amazing thing came from a mistake I made. When researching the book I wept my way through the Holocaust. One horrific incident happened in Germany when Nazi’s shot hundreds of Jews, and buried them with a bulldozer. What broke my heart was that some of them were still alive when they buried them. So I had an idea.
When I interviewed a very colorful university student, I put him into a moral dilemma. I said “It’s 1943. A German officer has a gun pointed at you. He wants you to get in to a bulldozer and drive it forward. In front of the bulldozer is a pit in which there are 300 Jews who have just been shot. Some of them are still alive. He wants you to bury them alive! If you don’t do what he says, he is going to kill you and do it himself. If you do what he says, he will let you live. Would you drive it forward?” He immediately said that he would never kill someone, because he was a compassionate person, so I off-handedly said, “So, how then do you feel about abortion?” His demeanor changed and he said he was for it.
When I likened his attitude to the thinking of the Nazis, he became angry and we crossed swords for about five minutes. He finally stormed off, and as I filmed him walking away I looked down and my camera said “Off.” I was in direct sunlight and had inadvertently switched the camera off at the beginning of the interview! It was such a compelling interview, and I was so heart-broken that I determined to put more people into that same scenario and see if the same thing happened. But the next time I did so, I went one step further and asked “the” question, and was amazed at how people did a complete 180. They changed from being adamantly pro-abortion, to being pro-life, in seconds.
(CBN): What has been the response to such a polarizing issue?
Ray: The response has been amazing. Millions have now seen it, and we have many testimonies of how people has changed their minds and become pro-life after watching it.
(CBN): How can we be praying for you and your ministry?
Ray: Please pray that God uses 180 to stop the horror of abortion—worldwide. Pray that people watch it, and if they are as excited as we are, we are asking that they link to 180Movie.com as many people as possible. The 180Movie.com website tells how to best do that. They could also purchase copies of the actual DVD and give them away. They only cost $1 each, and who is going to refuse a free DVD, especially in today’s economy? Finally, perhaps one of the best things anyone could do would be to train your church or group to speak to others about the subject of abortion (as shown on “180”) by getting “The 180 Course”. It’s very low cost ($10), and it contains the “180” DVD (includes additional training from Kirk Cameron and myself), a 64-page Study Guide—with thought provoking discussion questions and a wealth of added information, by myself, Kay Arthur, and Randy Alcorn, a pack of 100 “180”tracts and a copy of Randy Alcorn’s book Why Prolife? You can find details on 180Movie.com.