Phoenix in February is a nice place to visit especially when you come from parts of the country where winter means ice, snow, and frigid air.
Going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel dressed in a short-sleeved shirt is a nice treat when the temperatures are in the low 70’s.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries received the blessing of launching an outreach initiative at River of Life Lutheran Church in Goodyear, Arizona (azriveroflife.com) – a suburban area west of Phoenix. And the Lord blessed this wonderful effort.
Supported by WELS Board of Home Missions, River of Life Lutheran Church is led by Rev. Lincoln Albrecht who has been serving there the past three years. Six weeks ago, the congregation moved into a larger space to accommodate the growth in numbers. In conjunction with moving into a new space, Praise and Proclaim Ministries was asked to conduct an outreach initiative with the goal of training its members how to proclaim the gospel.
A total of three WELS district mission boards convened for three days of meetings and to participate in the outreach initiative. The mission boards represented the Pacific Northwest, Arizona/California and the North Atlantic district. Their presence provided a wonderful opportunity to see the new facility, encourage the congregation, and to actually work with the members to proclaim the gospel in the surrounding community of Goodyear.
Members from River of Life came together on Monday evening for two and half hours of training. They learned a methodology and approach to proclaim the gospel. The following morning, members were provided with an opportunity organized by Praise and Proclaim to put their training into action by going door-to-door. The point of this exercise was to receive a meaningful experience to verbally proclaim the gospel with another person. This important component of the training allowed participants to trust and fully lean on the power of God’s Word, to trust the wonderful outreach promises God provides for believers, and to conquer the fears of evangelism that are so common among many Christians.
For two hours on Tuesday morning, members from River of Life walked the streets in a community only a half mile away from church. They were joined in the afternoon by the district mission board members. A total of 29 people proclaimed the gospel on Valentine’s Day by sharing the John 3:16 love that God has for all people. We rejoiced in the number of opportunities God provided participants to share about the certain peace God provides – especially during times of uncertainty. This peace and certainty come as a result of what Christ has already done for us – in knowing that our sins are fully forgiven right now.
At the end of day, we took pause and celebrated the doors and opportunities God opened up for us. We rejoice that in Christ, we proclaimed the gospel and planted the seeds of God’s Word with 149 people. The Lord blessed our efforts! A number of families expressed sincere interest in learning more about River of Life and a desire to come on a Sunday morning to visit.
Here are a few snapshots of the people we met at the door:
A young man named Justin was wearing black Adidas soccer sweats and greeted two participants warmly at the door. He shared with them that he arrived from Cameroon two months ago and was very excited to come to the “land of opportunity.” He was staying with his aunt and uncle who have lived in the area for ten years. He was intrigued to learn more about Christ and the opportunity of meeting Americans at an American church.
A young lady named Rachel greeted two participants at the door along with a two-year-old girl with an adorable smile. She was very welcoming and expressed excitement that there was a new Christian church opening up less than a mile from her home. [There is a large LDS stake house/church in the neighborhood. Several people asked if that was our church. We had the opportunity to express that we belonged to a different church. It was surprising that we did not come across very many people who told us that they were Mormon.]
Jim had just moved into his home a few weeks ago. A member from River of Life met him while he was still organizing his garage. He admitted that he was looking for friends and expressed interest in coming to church and meeting the River of Life family. There seems to be more people these days who are longing to belong to something. Churches who reach out to help meet this need are providing a wonderful bridge to share the gospel.
It was a blessing for us to plant these seeds of the gospel. And frankly, we were surprised and excited by the number of people who expressed interest at the door.
“I have a little experience canvassing (10k homes) and I believe in it strongly. There are few better ways to build an identity in your community. For years I have tried to model what canvassing looks like and does. I have invited people to walk with me. I have encouraged them to join our Faith In Action teams. The strength of Dave’s teaching is in its simplicity. Many people see their pastor as an expert door-knocker or Jesus-talker, and so they think they never could do what he does. Dave breaks the process down into manageable chunks, starting with the first 15 seconds, and sets their collective minds at ease. We had hoped to have a dozen come for the training and maybe 6 come back the next day for the canvassing. The Lord blessed us with 17 attendees and double digit canvassers for each of our three sessions on Tuesday. It was amazing to watch the fear melt away from their hearts and minds and encouraging to see the Gospel zeal kindled in them after they went out and shared God’s Word with our community. We were blessed with nearly 150 Gospel seeds sown and 43 prospects to follow up on.” (Rev. Lincoln Albrecht, River of Life Lutheran Church – Goodyear, AZ)
A lay member from River of Life, who served as on-site event manager for Praise and Proclaim, has already recorded the names and addresses of people who expressed interest. The congregation is ready to incorporate a plan to continue to connect and engage with them in the weeks and months ahead.
It is a joy and privilege for Praise and Proclaim Ministries to partner with congregations and train its members how to proclaim the gospel. The outreach momentum that comes from the training and witnessing experience has been a blessing to see and we give God the glory.