St. Paul Lutheran Church (established 1885) in Winneconne WI has recently been experiencing a transformation.
In 2018, the village (pop. 2,435) went through a major construction project. The main street was torn up and rebuilt along with a new bridge over the Wolf River. Now that the project is complete, the beautiful church at St. Paul Lutheran continues to prominently sit on the refurbished street.
In conjunction with the new construction, St. Paul also completed a major remodeling project that was finished last spring. They now have a beautiful new narthex area for people to meet after worship service and two spacious bathrooms that are now handicapped accessible.
This is an exciting time for the gospel ministry at St. Paul Lutheran Church. It was a privilege for Praise and Proclaim Ministries to arrive the weekend of July 26-28, 2019 to launch an outreach initiative and provide evangelism training.
Summer is a great time to connect with people in Winneconne. The main downtown is built along the Wolf River and in the middle of the Wolf Chain of Lakes. This includes the lakes of Winneconne, Poygan and Butte des Morts. Many bass fishing tournaments are conducted throughout the summer and people love to utilize the large fishing bridge along the river.
About twenty miles east of Winneconne, the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh airshow was being held at the same time of the outreach initiative. Billed as the largest airshow in the world, it was reported that the weeklong event attracted a record 642,000 people. It was common to hear several private aircraft buzzing over the village throughout the week.
The initiative began with two and a half hours of training on Friday evening. Over fifty members and guests gathered in the church basement. This included long-time faithful members who wanted to learn more about personal evangelism and young families with children.
Despite the warm weather and busy summer plans, a core group of members gathered on Saturday morning to go door-to-door to put their training into action. They were eager and admittedly nervous. The Lord provided wonderful opportunities for them to employ a methodology and approach. They comfortably provided a short gospel message to people throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the congregation.
A part of Praise and Proclaim’s methodology and approach to training members how to verbally proclaim the gospel includes an invitation to a community event hosted by the congregation. St. Paul Lutheran decided to organize a National Night Out for the evening of August 6th. A postcard was mailed out a week before the initiative and participants utilized a half-page flyer to invite people to the event. Members were trained to use these tools to comfortably transition to proclaiming a brief gospel message.
Members of St. Paul Lutheran also handed out the half-page flyers to people during the annual Sovereign State Day parade held the previous weekend in Winneconne. One man who lived along the shores of Lake Winneconne immediately told a person at his door, “I already got one of those at the parade.”
On Saturday morning and afternoon, members from St. Paul Lutheran knocked on over five hundred doors to immediately put their training into action. Here are a few of their stories:
While walking toward their first house in the morning, a two-person team noticed a man who was sitting on a bench outside of a senior care center. They walked up and had a short visit with him. He told them that he was a former member of a Wisconsin synod church in Superior, WI and was looking for a new church home. A great start!
Three ladies from St. Paul Lutheran thoroughly enjoyed working together and greeting people at their door. They came across an older man and had a short visit with him. About ten minutes later, the same man walked briskly towards them. All that he wanted to do was apologize if he had been brusque with them. He told the ladies who appeared at his door that he read the half-page invite and sincerely appreciated the message. That morning he was thinking about how to attain peace while working out on his Stairmaster. He wanted to let the ladies know that he appreciated their message.
Another team met a young man who stated that he already belonged to a church. He pointed next door and advised them not to visit a lady who had been adversarial to the gospel message. The team seriously considered taking the man’s advice when they started to walk past the lady’s bungalow. At the last second, they decided against it and boldly walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell. The lady happened to be at home and answered the door. She confessed to be a believer in Christ but did not attend a church. The team shared with her what the Bible teaches about grace and redemption to receptive ears. The visit turned out to be a wonderful spiritual conversation that lasted forty-five minutes. After their conversation, the team from St. Paul Lutheran walked away rejoicing at the opportunity the Lord provided to share Christ’s message of salvation.
And they almost didn’t stop to ring her doorbell!
We rejoice that members from St. Paul Lutheran Church proclaimed the gospel eighty-one times on Saturday! We trust that the Word is working in the hearts and minds of those who heard the message.
During the worship service at St. Paul Lutheran the following Sunday morning, the New Testament reading included the following verse; “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:2-3)
During the outreach initiative, members discovered that Jesus is right! The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. God commissions all believers to proclaim the gospel and the power of his Word is unleashed in the hearts and minds of people who hear it. Believers can full trust that God’s hand is in the number of people who respond.
And now we know that a number of those few workers in Winnebago County belong to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Winneconne!
May the Lord continue to bless their faithful gospel work!
Reflections from members at St. Paul Lutheran: