Community members from Plano, Texas received a welcome surprise on Saturday when members from Atonement Lutheran Church knocked on their doors to proclaim a gospel message. And the Lord blessed their efforts.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries launched its 10th campaign for 2016 by travelling to East Dallas to train members from Atonement Lutheran Church to proclaim the gospel. Taking an example from a training camp, the purpose of this campaign was to train church members using a proficient methodology and approach to proclaim the gospel. This followed with a well-organized and meaningful opportunity to put their training into action.
Proclaiming the gospel to an actual unbeliever makes all the difference! It becomes an opportunity to practice and conquer the normal fears that many Christians have about witnessing.
After this weekend, Praise and Proclaim Ministries may no longer call these events outreach campaigns, but witnessing training camps. This would be a far better description of what really takes place.
The leadership team at Atonement [www.atonement.org] chose a nearby neighborhood that was within a five-minute drive from the church. It was a nice neighborhood with twenty to thirty-year old upper middle-class homes that included beautiful brick exteriors. There were no attached garages that a person could see from the street. This made the neighborhood unique. Behind every home, a long alley provided access to large multi-car garages.
The primary goal of any campaign is to train members to proclaim the gospel by learning a simple methodology and approach. On this foundation, an outreach structure can be constructed that will have a lasting value for the congregation. This campaign at Atonement was also done in conjunction with an exciting building expansion that includes a brand new sanctuary (see architectural drawings).
It was exciting to see members from Atonement receive training and a positive experience going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel. They expressed eager anticipation to continue to engage people in the weeks ahead and be bold in witnessing to any member of the community.
This particular campaign proved to be unique for three reasons:
- Texas is located in the Bible belt. There is a higher percentage of people who will claim an affiliation with a church with a degree of unbending pride. A number of Catholics told us that they are “really Catholic” or “we are a Catholic church that keeps on trying.” They felt they were good to go and didn’t need to hear our message. We even met a few “practicing” Jews who were a delight to talk to.
How do we respond to people who already have a church home? We joyfully acknowledge their membership and rejoice with them, then ask them a few questions. We may inquire about its location then attempt to provide a simple transition to sharing a brief summary of what our church teaches. Perhaps the Lord may use this message to strengthen their faith. Perhaps they have not attended a church for quite a while. In one particular instance, a woman expressed to our missionary that she was a “practicing” Jew. Curious, our missionary exclaimed, “Wow! I’ve never met a practicing Jew before! Tell me a little bit about your faith.” After her answer, she followed up by saying, “I’m curious. By your understanding, who is Jesus?” She replied, “I don’t really know.” And an opportunity opened up for our missionary to share a brief message about the Messiah who lived, died, and rose again.
- Texans love football. They are very proud of their college and high school affiliations. It was very common to see signposts by their front doors that displayed college logos. We discovered that many of these signs represented schools where their children currently attended. Sometimes, an alum of a school would have a flag waving in the front yard. During the afternoon, many homes were engrossed in watching their favorite college team. We could understand their hesitancy to answer a door when their team is barely ahead in the fourth quarter.
- People with wealth have a tendency to be settled in their religious or spiritual beliefs. They either belong to a church or are not interested. For them, engaging with a stranger professing Christ at the door is not high on their list of things to do. And they are not shy to tell you.
As a result of these reasons, there were a disproportionate number of people who did not answer their door. But that didn’t seem to sway the eleven trained evangelists from Atonement Lutheran Church. They boldly and persistently walked the neighborhood streets. They also kept a good sense of humor. Even though voices were heard behind the door and barking dogs were told to be kept quiet, the evangelists pressed on.
EXAMPLE: One home still had extensive Halloween decorations in their yard and at their door. The owner opened the door and our evangelist said, “Trick or treat!” The homeowner laughed. As a result, our evangelists comfortably provided a gospel message to listening ears who appreciated his sense of humor. Another home had a door bell that played a resounding Beethoven’s 5th symphony. It was impressive. When the door opened, our evangelist remarked how impressed he was with his doorbell ring. That engagement also led to a comfortable proclamation of the gospel to listening ears.
Some evangelists received the opportunity to proclaim the gospel in front of security camera or talk to people who answered the door with their iPhones. Whether in person or on screen, the gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed.
The Lord provided our evangelists with opportunities to proclaim the gospel 71 times!
It was wonderful to hear that most of the neighborhood were already familiar with Atonement Lutheran Church. The neighbors got to meet real-life members who were fearless in their role of being God’s messengers. They proclaimed a message of real peace that focuses on how we can find freedom in Christ.
We trust that the Lord of the Harvest will bless those gospel seeds that were planted. And we may never know how the Lord used those seeds. Atonement may not receive one new member as a result of going door-to-door that day. They may not see one person show up for a worship service. Evangelists understand that when they take care of their responsibility of sowing seeds of the gospel, the Lord of the Harvest provides fruit in His own way. We may not see people walk through the front door as a result of an outreach event, but the Lord has a way of sending people through the side door for a congregation that is prepared to receive them.
One of the evangelists that participated that day is a biology professor. Atheism and evolution theorists abound in her field and at her university. She told the story of one atheist professor who concluded a discussion with her about Christians with this statement, “I don’t believe in God and may never will. But I must confess that I wish I had the peace that you have.”
Unbelievers today are searching for peace and many will never admit it. But they see it in those who profess Christ. It’s Christ living in them. Believers have peace because of the confidence and assurance in knowing that we are freely and fully forgiven right now because of what Christ has already done for us. There is freedom in faith. There is only one true peace in Christ.
Isn’t this great news we can joyfully share with others?
One final story:
When the afternoon began to wind down and after a despairing lack of interest expressed and many people not answering the door, one evangelist turned away from the door and paused at the door step. He couldn’t help but notice a Monarch butterfly had landed on a flower about eight to ten feet away. The butterfly suddenly floated up and fluttered only a few feet away from his head and seemed to stay there for ten or fifteen seconds. The thought, “He is risen!” filled his head and settled in his heart. Upon watching the butterfly flutter away into the slight breeze, he gave thanks for what Christ has done and the privilege of sharing this message with others. It didn’t matter how people responded to him, but only how people responded to the message. Now fully resolved and inspired, he finished the remaining homes on the map and returned back to the church…. joyfully exhausted.
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