Praise and Proclaim Ministries had the privilege of partnering with Cross of Glory Lutheran Church and School in Peoria, AZ to launch an outreach initiative on February 24-25. This initiative was held in conjunction with a comprehensive effort for Cross of Glory to begin a second site in nearby Vistancia.
Cross of Glory Lutheran Church began in 2001. The Lord has blessed the congregation with a membership of 261 baptized souls and a preschool/elementary school with a combined enrollment of 86 children. Now that they have established themselves as a neighborhood church in their community, they are ready to expand their church across the freeway and into a new, developing area that is a ten-fifteen-minute drive from the Peoria campus.
This wasn’t the first time Praise and Proclaim Ministries came to Vistancia. A year ago, our ministry launched its first campaign in the area – a campaign commissioned by the WELS Board of Home Missions. [campaign report]
On Friday evening, twenty members from Cross of Glory assembled for training at the Vistancia community center. They were joined by four members from nearby CrossWalk Church in Phoenix. Together, they learned a methodology and approach to proclaim the gospel, then immediately were provided an opportunity to put their training into action on a sunny, cool Saturday morning and afternoon.
For most people, Phoenix is not a bad place to be in February. Flying out of Boise on Thursday, the plane needed to be de-iced due to the amount of snow that was falling. With sub-freezing temperatures, that would be a normal definition of cool weather for many people this time of the year.
But not in Phoenix.
While the temperature quickly warmed to 50 degrees, most of the participants who lived in Arizona started to go door-to-door in sweatshirts, long-sleeve t-shirts, or light jackets. Except for me. Basking in the warm sun, I eagerly looked forward to walking out side with my short-sleeve shirt and sun-hat. Perhaps I may have been too obvious to the native Arizonan at the door that I was not from these parts, but that was okay. I was enjoying Phoenix in February. [See report from Outreach Initiative from Goodyear, AZ/ Feb. 13-14, 2017]
One important aspect of our training is that we focus on remembering God’s promises that are associated with believers who step out in faith to share their faith. Evangelism is scary for many Christians because it is 100% unnatural. It is totally foreign to our human nature. Though fully aware of God’s commission for all Christians to be his witnesses, we have a natural response to look in the mirror and be overcome with fear. Instead, Jesus wants us to look at him. The power, strength, and courage come from the biblical truth that Christ lives in us. He is the gospel, and the power of conversion only comes through God’s Word — not from us. It’s a miracle! God, in his wisdom, sets apart his children to proclaiming the faith-giving power of His Word to others. What a privilege it is to be used by God in this way — to go and make disciples of all nations – even in Vistancia, AZ.
At the end of the day, twenty “mighty warriors in Christ” (Judges 6:12) proclaimed the gospel and planted the seeds of God’s Word with 151 people. The Lord provided approximately 28 families who expressed interest to learn more about what Cross of Glory teaches and the new church starting in their neighborhood.
Here are some of the stories:
Two members from Cross of Glory were going door-to-door in the same neighborhood of Vistancia where the pastor who is leading the efforts to plant a second site lives. The members knocked on the door of a man whose house is directly behind the pastor’s house. When the member introduced himself, the man at the door was both pleased and excited. Just that morning, he was praying about a church to join, but he didn’t know where. And now two members from Cross of Glory showed up at his door! Once he told them about his prayer, they told him, “Well, we are an answer to your prayers.”
The second site will be conducting its first worship service on Easter Sunday at Lake Pleasant Elementary School in Vistancia. The neighborhood surrounding the school was the focal point of our door-to-door proclaiming on Saturday morning. Two members knocked on the door and met a lady who expressed great interest in coming to church. She happened to be a teacher at Lake Pleasant and was looking for a church to belong. Perfect timing!
Sometimes we came across busy mothers who were actively taking care of their kids. One busy mother told the members at the door that she had no time for them this morning because she was making breakfast and trying to hustle her kids out the door. After a quick pause, she turned around and said, “But give me one of your flyers. I would like to learn more.”
Another woman initially expressed a lack of interest, but the members noticed that she had a high interest in music. [Her dog’s name was “Beethoven’} Upon inquiring more about their mutual love of music, the lady expressed that she missed singing and would be interested in participating with the church choir. Since the member at the door belonged to the choir already, it was a meaningful invitation.
Once in a while, I receive a memorable experience when I go out with the participants and help proclaim the gospel. I was walking up to a door in the afternoon and I heard some lovely music. They were Christian instrumentals hymns — I enjoy listening to while working in my office. My immediate thought was that this was a Christian home that didn’t need the gospel since they were already playing beautiful hymns on their front porch, but I chose to knock anyway.
An elderly man with a deep accent answered the door. He told me that he belonged to a Catholic church that was about 45 minutes away, but I could tell that he didn’t go very often. Inquiring about his accent, he told me his story. He was born and raised in Hungary. At the age of fourteen, he escaped the communist takeover in 1956 and fled to Austria. He spent four years there until a Hungarian catholic church in Youngstown, OH sponsored him to immigrate to America. He joined the U.S. army and served for twenty-one years to try and fight the spread of communism. He volunteered for two tours in Vietnam in the late 60’s and 70’s. During his second tour, he served in Da Nang and was given mortuary duty. He saw hundreds, if not thousands, of young men who were killed during the war. It was during this time, he asked, “Where is God in that?”
He later admitted that he is a “deist” who only goes to the Catholic church because his children and grandchildren attend there. The Lord provided me with opportunity to respectfully share with him the devastation of sin and how God provides answers through the gospel. Jesus – God in human flesh – came to rescue us by substituting himself on the cross. By faith alone we receive Christ’s perfection and are acceptable before God. We receive peace during uncertain times and especially when we deal with difficult questions that deal with the devastation of sin. Throughout our twenty-minute discussion on his front porch, hymn after hymn was playing that provided me with wonderful prompts to proclaim a series of brief messages to a darkened heart. Towards the end of the conversation, the strains of “Amazing Grace” were heard. I shared with him the how sweet the sound was of what Christ has already done for us. I told him, “Believe. Your sins are fully forgiven.”
As I was walking to the sidewalk and to the next home, I continued to hear “Amazing Grace” being played. All of a sudden, I grabbed my iPhone from my front left pocket and looked. Somehow, my Pandora station on my phone was playing my Hymns station. That’s what I was hearing throughout my conversation with Idri – not hymns from his house.
Pray for Idri whose time of grace is drawing near. There is a great deal of baggage in his life, but we trust the “dynamite” of God’s Word. We pray that its power can break through the hardened soil of a man’s heart whose life has personally seen the devastation of sin at its worst.
We thank the Lord for the members of Cross of Glory and pray that the Lord will bless their desire and prayer to plant a second site in Vistancia.