“Excuse me, if you were to die tonight, where would you be – in heaven or in hell?”

If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. Romans 10:9 

This was the respectful and unassuming question one man would tirelessly ask nearly 100,000 people in the streets of Sydney, Australia during World War II. Ten people a day for sixteen years and Frank Jenner never knew just how much the Lord used him… be inspired and encouraged as I was by this beautiful story.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9 

“During a time of testimonies at Lansdowne Baptist Church, Bournemouth, England in the Spring of 1952, Rev Francis Dixon heard two very similar stories from two British sailors who had never met each other before. Both sailors, while on shore leave in Sydney, were approached by a man who asked the question: “Young man, if you were to die tonight, where would you be, in heaven or in hell?” In the course of time they both returned home, but the encounter with this mysterious man on George Street, Sydney, left such a deep impression on their hearts and minds that they both sought spiritual help when back in England. Later, they both became Christians… Shortly after this, Francis Dixon departed with his wife Nancy for his first preaching tour to Australia and New Zealand. Deeply fascinated by the coincidence of the two stories… he resolved to investigate the matter further…

The tour commenced in Adelaide and, while preaching in a large hall one night, Francis Dixon related the stories of the two sailors from England. At this point, their host… waved his arms around, jumped up, and said, “I’m another! I’m another!” This man, Murray Wilkes, later told them that during the war the evangelist had approached him while he was running to catch a tram, and that he had given his life to Christ in an army barracks two weeks later. While in Perth, Francis Dixon again shared the story of the two sailors. This time, a man approached him after the talk to say that he too had become a Christian as a consequence of the single sentence uttered by the evangelist on George Street, Sydney. What’s more, he had gone on to lead Christian Endeavour for Western Australia. And so, Francis Dixon reached Sydney determined to meet the man behind these stories. On arrival, he related the stories to local Christian worker Alec Gilchrist, and asked if he knew the evangelist. “I know him well”, said Alec. “His name is Frank Jenner…”

Later… as Francis Dixon told the four stories of the men who had responded to the evangelist’s simple question, Frank Jenner, with tears in his eyes, fell to his knees and prayed… this was the first time he had heard of lasting results. “You know, I never heard that anyone I ever spoke to had gone on for the Lord. Some made professions of salvation when I spoke to them but I never ever knew any more than that.”

Those who knew Frank Jenner testify that his nature was generous and warm, that he quickly inspired trust in others, and that his life was marked by persistence in prayer. 

The circumstances of the Second World War – particularly the horrific images of Japan after the atomic bombs – so heightened Jenner’s sense of urgency that he felt it necessary to confront others directly about their standing before God. Not that this came easily: Jenner struggled to overcome a gambling habit acquired as a sailor, and he suffered persistent health problems throughout his life. He was so aware of his weakness that before each encounter on George Street he silently prayed: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”. He first coined his now-famous question in 1937, and over the years probably asked nearly 100,000 people. 

It is no surprise, then, that his influence extended far beyond Australia. Just a month after meeting Frank Jenner… a man… approached Mr Dixon and said, “I too was challenged by Mr. Jenner and now I am in a soul-winning work myself”. Four years after this, while ministering to missionaries in India, Mr Dixon found another convert from George Street, Sydney. She had responded to the evangelist’s challenge and offered her life for service in India. In all, Francis Dixon knew of 10 people who had come to Christ as a consequence of the influence of Frank Jenner. 

Frank Jenner, in his own way… got to the heart of the issue: he directly challenged sailors about their standing before God… his life is a wonderful testimony of how God can use those who remain faithful [and obedient] to Him.” 

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4 thoughts on ““Excuse me, if you were to die tonight, where would you be – in heaven or in hell?”

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