A mission field with the greatest potential
Before congregations strategize about sharing the gospel with lost souls in their community it may be important to clearly define those who are lost.
In the most succinct way, a “lost” soul is a person who does not have saving faith in Christ. Some have stubbornly and willfully rejected the existence of God. Others believe that there is a higher power, but have rejected the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A large majority adhere to a world religion that attempts to provide a path for a soul to attain perfect righteousness and harmony with the universe. These are lost souls who are easier to distinguish from those who place their trust in God’s promises in Christ Jesus.
There is another group of lost souls that are more difficult to distinguish. They live in our neighborhoods across the U.S. and have clearly become a ripe mission field with great potential.
Studies are revealing that there is a growing number of people who may claim to be Christian, profess a belief in God, and pray intermittently, but are refraining from being an active member of a Christian church. They may feel an affiliation with a certain church or denomination, but rarely attend except for weddings, funerals, and Christmas Eve services. This gives evidence to the fact that Christ may not be real or relevant in their lives.
Dean Inserra, author of the book, “The Unsaved Christian”, refers to this group of people as “cultural Christians”. They are lost souls who are reachable and need to hear the Good News.
From my experience with Praise and Proclaim Ministries and conducting door-to-door evangelism campaigns throughout the U.S., I have met many people who could be considered “cultural Christians”. They live in the Bible belt, west coast, east coast, and the Midwest. They may declare a belief in God but they don’t know Jesus. I am convinced that many of them have never heard a clear message of who Christ is and what he has already done for our salvation. They are lost and need to hear about the treasure that all believers have in the finished work of Christ.
Living in Idaho, there is a strong Mormon presence. If you asked a Mormon if they were Christians, most of them would immediately answer “Yes!” without hesitation. They would be deeply offended if you told them that they were not Christian. They verbally profess a faith in Jesus Christ and even include Jesus in the name of their church, but many have never heard the Truth of what the Bible teaches. The Jesus they “know” is far different than what orthodox Christianity teaches. As Mark Cares of Truth in Love Ministry would say, “Mormonism is more of a culture than it is a cult.”
There are a growing number of people who are like my Mormon friends and neighbors. They are cultural Christians who don’t know Jesus.
Atheists or agnostics verbally deny Christ or the existence of God. They usually have reasons that have little to do with the Truth. They are usually angry at God or disillusioned about a God that doesn’t seem to care about them or anybody else.
Cultural Christians believe they are Christian but have a misunderstanding about the severity of sin, the concept of God’s grace, or what Jesus has done for us. They think they are just fine with God because they are generally good people and far better than those who are deserving of hell. They respect the church but don’t want to be part of it. They may respect church traditions or important Christian holidays, and may appear reverent on Sundays, but it all seems irrelevant to their lives.
It is challenging to reach people who feel they are already right with God. It can be intimidating to reach out to people who appear comfortable with their status before God.
How can we reach out to the cultural Christian? In a society where it may be considered a taboo or intolerant to proselytize, how can we comfortably reach out to others to talk about something that is often feels uncomfortable?
How can we help our friends and neighbors to know they are lost so that they can be saved?
I encourage Christians to believe that people in today’s world are willing to hear the Truth, despite what they may think. Trust Jesus when he says that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Be willing messengers for God and don’t immediately disqualify yourself by default.
A default reaction may the take the form of inviting people to come to your church for the sake of inviting people to come to your church. The invitation can give the impression that all a person needs to do is go to church to be right with God. It can become an act of self-righteousness rather than an invitation to hear the Truth. Since more people today are refraining from coming to church to attend a worship service, it is becoming more imperative for Christians to provide reasons for the hope that they have in Christ.
Praise and Proclaim trains Christians to verbally proclaim the gospel. Part of the training includes an opportunity to put their training into action. This includes going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel to strangers. We refrain from immediately asking people, “Do you have a church home?” I find it interesting that people today seem to be easily offended by that question. They will often tell you to leave them alone and close the door. When we ask the same question to “cultural Christians,” many will say “yes” then tell you to leave them alone and close the door. If they stay at the door, Christians may be tempted to quiz them by asking the name of their pastor or priest. If they don’t know the answer, you may have successful exposed them as an inactive member. But what have you accomplished? After catching them in a lie, are they going to be more likely to listen to what you have to say about Jesus? Are they going to be more willing to seriously consider an invitation to come to your church?
Perhaps there may be better ways to engage “cultural Christians”.
I suggest utilizing an approach that is loving and respectful. Many cultural Christians are not averse to attending church, they just don’t believe that attending church is relevant in their lives right now. Since they may respect the Bible, don’t be afraid to use the Bible. There is a good chance that the person may have belonged to a church that didn’t clearly teach the Truth. They probably do not have a firm understanding about the Bible concepts of justification or redemption.
Look for starting points to begin a conversation. Help them along on a journey to rediscover what the Bible really says. In a loving and respectful manner, you can ask, “What is the standard to be right with God? How good do you have to be to be good enough to earn heaven? Who does God say are the people who will be going to hell? Listen carefully and patiently. Remember these are starting points to help a person learn about Jesus and what he has done. The point is not to corner or embarrass them.
Evangelism is far more about God than about our self. There is power in the words we share when we talk about Christ and what he has already done for us. God does not call us to prepare to win arguments, but to win souls through his Word. And sometimes, all it takes is a face from a church to start a conversation and initiate a journey for a lost soul to come back to Christ.
Many cultural Christians are deciding not to go to church for the sake of going to church. They are wanting to know why going to church is important before accepting an invitation. Many want to hear from Christians why faith is important to them instead of listening to a sermon. With so much information contrary to the message of Christ, they are wanting to know why faith matters from people they can trust. Cultural Christians are reachable. Trust that there are some who are waiting to hear what believers have to say.
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Why I believe Wisconsin is a great mission field
Praise and Proclaim has launched five outreach initiatives in Wisconsin that includes going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel. We are meeting people who are willing to be engaged to hear a short gospel message. Congregations in Wisconsin can be encouraged to trust Jesus words that the harvest is ready and the workers are few. I provide a few reasons why this is true.
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The impact of building credibility in outreach
Praise and Proclaim has had the privilege of conducting forty-seven outreach initiatives since its inception in 2016. With every congregation, we attempt to learn while we train members to verbally proclaim the gospel.
I believe we have uncovered a powerful way for congregations to engage their community and transition to sharing a brief gospel message. I explain more in this short video.
Proclaiming the gospel in Mt Horeb WI
Mt Horeb is growing bedroom community outside the metropolitan area of Madison. While keeping to its small-town roots and a main street that reflects its past, new homes are emerging in former pastures where farmers grew corn and raised livestock. Located only twenty miles from state capitol building, this is a perfect place to plant a new church.
Good News Lutheran started six years ago and now has a baptized membership of almost one hundred and fifty souls. Praise and Proclaim Ministries was blessed to launch an outreach initiative with the pastor at Good News, Rev. Jonathan Bauer, and members of the congregation on May 30 to June 2nd.
Starting spiritual conversations about sin
The gospel is God’s “delivery system” to create faith in the hearts of unbelievers. All believers are set apart or commissioned to be a part of the delivery process. It is only through this “means of grace” that a person receives the full benefits of Christ’s finished work on the cross.
God’s commands for all people serves an important role in evangelism. His law exposes the hearts and souls of those who are separated from God. His law is a means of diagnosis to help people recognize their utter need for help. It reveals that all the problems in this world are symptoms of a bigger problem… a sinner’s need to be rescued.
How can a believer enter a conversation about sin? How can a believer build a platform that allows them to safely transition to rescuing a person who is on a slippery slope to eternal destruction?
Promises to prepare believers to be witnesses
There are powerful words associated with remaining in Christ that are not to be taken lightly. Words of promise and ramifications. Words of promise and boldness.
In an uncompromising world, there are absolute promises that requires an enormous sacrifice.
Jesus makes promises for all people. For those who trust in Christ and remain in his love, promises turn into reality.
With a careful reflection of the words of John 15, we can discover seven important truths that a believer can count on. These promises help prepare us to be his witnesses in today’s world.
#1 Believers are already clean!
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)
Believers are clean not based on what we have done or can do for Christ, but the powerful claims of His Word.
The Lord lovingly tends to those who remain in Him. He disciplines those he loves and delights in pruning branches in our lives that are not bearing fruit. The act of pruning is often painful, but necessary for believers so that they may bear fruit in greater number and higher quality.
#2 Bearing fruit is a promise that believers can count on.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)
A healthy tree bears good fruit. It’s a natural response because that’s what fruit trees were created to do.
Faithful believers who remain in Christ bear good fruit because that is what they were created to do. The acts of faithfulness are focused on the “remaining” rather than the “doing”. This means remaining steadfastly in his Word so that a believer can be a healthy tree in Christ. This includes trusting God’s promises when life is sunny or stormy and that God is planting them right where they need. He provides the right people at the right time to pick the low-hanging fruit from a believer so they can “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
#3 Obedience is a wonderful opportunity for believers to experience the presence of Christ.
“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (v. 10)
Obedience does not affect a believer’s status with Christ, but introduces His presence to the world.
#4 Jesus claims all believers to be His friends.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (v. 15)
Perfect love is found only in Christ. Believers have no greater friend than Christ. The greatest demonstration of perfect love and perfect friendship is when Christ laid down his life for us. Isn’t that amazing?
#5 Jesus chose all believers to be his friends.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you..” (v.16)
Jesus picked us out from the crowd. He taps us on our shoulder and wants to be associated with us. He is not embarrassed to be seen with us. He listens to us intently. He cares for us passionately. He is perfectly trustworthy and forever has our back.
Jesus separates us from the world and leads those who remain in him down the narrow road and through the small gate to be with him forever.
#6 Because Jesus has chosen all believers to be his friends, they are going to be hated by the world.
“..you do not belong to the world, but I have chose you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (v. 19)
Rejection hurts. We desire to belong. We long to be liked, accepted, acknowledged, and befriended. By trusting in Christ and remaining in his love, believers are going to be marked, persecuted and hated. Believers ought to accept this promise from Christ and not be surprised when it happens.
Despite the tugs to be accepted, loved – or feel like you belong – by the world, remember that nothing in this world can come close to what Christ will deliver in heaven. Remain in him.
#7 A believer’s life in Christ is a testimony for Christ.
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (v. 26-27)
Always be prepared and ready to provide an answer for the hope we have in Christ. When believers step out in faith to share the gospel with others, they share the words of Christ. The words will not be their own, but they will come from the Spirit of truth, our Advocate, who lives and reigns in them.
Fruits of the Spirit that display itself in our life in Christ are produced from the Spirit. Trusting Christ’s promises prepares us to be his witnesses.
Testifying the truth of Christ can only be produced from the Spirit of truth who gives us the words to say. Remaining in Christ’s promises prepares us to be his witnesses.
Praise and Proclaim updates:
I had the privilege and joy to present at the recent WELS Staff Ministers Conference held at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Niles, IL (April 25-27). After the presentation, it was fun to lead over thirty WELS staff ministers canvassing to verbally proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in the surrounding neighborhoods. Even though teams were only given a window of forty-five minutes to an hour, we rejoice that the Lord opened enough doors for us to plant the seeds of the gospel 75 times. We pray that the training may serve to enhance the gospel ministries of these faithful servants who are serving in various capacities through the U.S.
On April 10th, I had the privilege to lead training at E-Day Action Day at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN. It was impressive to see the number of students arrive even though the canvassing component of the training had to be cancelled due to the severe winter weather. (see link “The New Ulm Adventure“) Even though the weather forecasted another winter storm, the Lord allowed the rescheduled canvassing to take place on Saturday, April 28th. Twenty-five MLC students went out and knocked on over seven hundred doors in New Ulm and verbally proclaimed the gospel to 157 souls. During the debriefing time, the students were grateful for the experience and energized by the number of positive responses they received at the door. May the Lord bless this experience and enhance the student’s training to be future called servants.
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A way to begin a conversation about God
Since there are so many false connotations and misunderstandings about God, starting spiritual conversations with unbelievers can be difficult and frustrating. Like a car spinning its wheels in the snow, great energy is invested and you feel completely stuck.
How can you begin to have a meaningful spiritual conversation? How can you gain traction in your discussions instead of turning them into heated debates?
It starts by understanding that a person’s response could largely be based on how they perceive God rather than how God is revealed in the Bible.
Proclaiming the gospel in Chattanooga
The greatest source of peace for those who trust in God’s promises is that our Savior is a living hope. That could be a great name for a new church. And I think that Rev. Eric Melso would agree.
He should know because he talked to hundreds of people in Chattanooga, TN who were given a chance to pick the name of the new church. He and his wife, Jenn, knocked on doors and sponsored booths at community events. The people they met even voted on the new church logo. The new mission start became Living Hope Lutheran Church and held its first worship service last fall at a popular movie theatre in Hamilton Place.
With great anticipation, Praise and Proclaim Ministries arrived during Palm Sunday weekend to launch an outreach initiative and provide training for members to learn how to plant seeds of the gospel through proclaiming his Word.