Proclaiming the gospel in La Porte IN
Threatening weather forecasts casted doubt on whether faithful members from Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church were going to be able to plant gospel seeds on Saturday. We prayed for a window of opportunity and the Lord granted our request.
Praise and Proclaim had the privilege to travel to La Porte, IN on October 25-26 to launch an outreach initiative. This was our fifty-fourth initiative in twenty-one states since the gospel ministry began in 2016. It was a blessing to come to provide evangelism training that included opportunities for members to put their training into practice through practical experience of witnessing to strangers and friends of the congregation.
Beautiful Savior is a young congregation that started forming in the mid-1990’s. A group starting meeting regularly in Michigan City. In 1999, the WELS Board of Home Missions granted funds to have a full-time minister. Since most of the new members of the group were coming from La Porte, the congregation decided to rent a meeting place in the city to hold worship services. They eventually purchased seven acres of land on the east side of La Porte and a beautiful worship facility was built in 2006.
The city of La Porte is named after the French word for “the door” and has an estimated population of 21,000 people. Our prayer and hope for this outreach initiative is that it could enhance the ongoing work of its gospel ministry and open the doors to proclaim the Good News of what Jesus Christ has already done.
On Friday evening, a dozen guests from several congregations in the Benton Harbor (MI) area drove forty-five minutes to attend the two-and-a-half-hour training session. The weather forecast for the following day called for a 100% chance of heavy rain and high winds. My prayer was that the Lord would provide a window of opportunity on Saturday morning for each two-person team to knock on at least a dozen doors and/or talk to two strangers.
The Lord answered my prayer.
Several faithful members from Beautiful Savior arrived early on Saturday morning and were ready to go. They were not only stepping out in faith to go out and knock on people’s doors, they were stepping out in hope. For a good hour, five teams went out to a nearby neighborhood. Together, we knocked on a hundred doors and talked to twenty-five people. Many people expressed interest about the Neighborhood Safety Night the congregation was hosting. Some families had children who attended the successful soccer camp held at church each summer. More importantly, we received opportunities to provide a short message about what Christ has already done for us.
Shortly after 11:00 a.m., the wind and the rain started to arrive into the area. The afternoon plan to make personal follow-up visits with friends of the congregation had to be postponed for the following weekend. The wind and rain lasted throughout the night causing minor flooding and a brief power outage for most of the city.
Even though the weather postponed the activities of proclaiming the gospel on Saturday, it was just the beginning to have more members actively participate with the pastor to get the Word out in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN is about a forty-five-minute drive from La Porte. Being a college football fan, it made sense to make a quick visit on Thursday afternoon to the historic grounds of the Notre Dame football stadium and take pictures.
A beautiful atrium on campus connects the football stadium to the campus. Overlooking the football stadium, a huge mural on the side of the library includes a picture of Jesus holding up both hands as if blessing the world. Since Jesus is facing the football stadium, the mural has been famously dubbed as “Touchdown Jesus”.
I believe the mural also provides an adequate picture for evangelism activity.
Scripture tells us that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent. Faith and receiving baptism is a “Touchdown Jesus” moment.
Jesus commissions all believers to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News to all nations. Whenever there is gospel activity of delivering the message of the gospel, we trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts and minds of those who receive it. Opportunities for believers to verbally proclaim the gospel are “Touchdown Jesus” moments.
During Sunday morning worship, a four-month old boy named Stetson was baptized at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church. Surrounded by over a dozen family members – many who were unchurched and probably did’t know Jesus yet – observed a child receive the waters of baptism and heard a wonderful gospel message. It was a “Touchdown Jesus” moment at Beautiful Savior.
May the Lord use the outreach initiative to enhance the gospel ministry at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church led by Rev. Kevin Boushek. It was a privilege for us to partner with them.
Proclaiming the gospel in Richland Center WI
The dual congregations at Trinity Lutheran in Lime Ridge, WI and St. John Lutheran in Hillpoint have shared a pastor. With an aging membership, they were aware that it was going to be challenging to continue their gospel ministry. With less young families living in the area and the future job prospects slim, both congregations were winding down a path towards closure. Instead of accepting this trend as inevitable, the congregations prayerfully considered their options.
They directed their attention to launch a new gospel ministry in Richland Center, WI. This city served as a hub for the area and did not have a WELS presence.
After their pastor retired, the congregations decided to extend a call to a pastor with the intent of having him lead their congregations to plant a new church in Richland Center. By God’s grace, Rev. Dan Lewig accepted the call in Christmas of 2015. With his leadership and the faithfulness from the members who attend Trinity and St. John, the Lord is blessing their efforts.
Proclaiming the gospel in Willoughby OH
I have a discovered a new term for evangelism this weekend. It’s called “ring witnessing”.
Praise and Proclaim had the privilege of partnering with King of Kings Lutheran Church (founded in 1965) the weekend of October 4-6 to launch an outreach initiative in Willoughby, OH – a twenty five-minute drive east of downtown Cleveland.
With a current membership of eighty baptized souls, the congregation completed an evaluation of their community. Many new homes were being constructed less than a mile from the church along with homes that were built fifty years ago. Coupled with the fact that an elementary school was directly across the street from the congregation, it was decided to aggressively move forward in their outreach and evangelism efforts.
Praise and Proclaim arrived to help launch them forward and into their community. The initiative began with the following recommendations:
Proclaiming the gospel in Thiensville WI
There are forty-three members of the incoming junior class at the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. When a person meets and works with them, they can confidently come away with the confidence and impression that the future of the gospel ministry in the WELS continues to be in good hands.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries had the privilege of partnering with Christ Alone Lutheran Church in Thiensville, WI to launch an outreach initiative September 27-28. This was the second of two initiatives conducted in partnership with the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Two weeks prior, half of the junior class drove up to Fond du Lac, WI to participate with members from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
And the Lord blessed our efforts.
On the front lines of controversy
What is it like to be on the frontlines of controversy?
A sneaker wave of attention unexpectedly falls on a person’s shore. Somebody has uncovered a past comment that appears hateful, racist, or unacceptable. A news report uncovers a company actions that causes a public outcry. They quickly scramble to provide a satisfactory response to keep their profit share. In the political arena, entertainment world, or other high-profile venues, people hire experts to know how to deftly avoid or even take advantage of informational storms.
Controversies demand resolution. They rarely ride off into the sunset on their own. Supporters or opportunists will use whatever means at their disposal to further their cause by riding the wave created by controversy.
Evangelism can spark controversy.
Proclaiming the gospel in Fond du Lac WI
Tucked away in the SE corner of Fond Du Lac, WI, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church has established itself as a congregation that serves the community and faithfully shares the Good News. With roots dating back to the 1940’s, Good Shepherd (515 baptized members) is one of four WELS congregations in Fond du Lac (estimated 2017 population of 42,809). This includes St. Peter’s (1,212), Faith (1,648), and Redeemer (594) Lutheran Churches.
With recent additions and renovations to the church ministry center and an active Jesus Little Lambs Child Care Center, the congregation has positioned itself to confidently go out to their surrounding neighborhood to proclaim the Good News.
It was a privilege for Praise and Proclaim Ministries to come to Fond du Lac WI September 13-15 to launch an outreach initiative at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and provide personal evangelism training.
This initiative was unique because it included two dozen students from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) in Mequon.
Evangelism requires words
My daughter tells her children to use their own words when they speak. When they get frustrated, angry, or disappointed, she tells them to use their own words so that she can understand what they are trying to say.
When I train Christians to verbally proclaim the gospel, I insist that they use their own words. I don’t provide a script to memorize. I don’t load them with answers to every question, nor prepare them to lead a multi-point presentation. In today’s world, people don’t want to hear my words given to somebody else, they want to hear the words that comes from a believing heart.
Searching people who are desiring purpose in their lives want to hear a believer’s reason for the hope they have in Christ. When the message centers upon the cross and what Christ has already done for us, God uses these words in a powerful way.
Evangelism requires words.
Here are three misconceptions about evangelism that can cause believers to refrain from using words.
Reaching the world starts with our neighbors
When overwhelmed by the mission of the church to teach all nations and the great commission given to go and make disciples, Jesus provides us with a witnessing tip to get started.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
It is a simple strategy yet profoundly difficult.
It means to sacrifice our own self-interests for the interest of others. It means to stop absorbing ourselves in our own little world and capture the interest of those living around us – for the sake of the gospel.
Love my neighbor as myself? It’s hard-enough just to know their names.
When it comes to employing outreach strategies, we tend to forget that the best mission is to work the field where God has planted us. Whether a subdivision, apartment building, townhomes, or living on forty acres, we all have neighbors. We wave at them when we drive by their house. We watch their kids grow up from a distance, buy their children’s cookie dough when they knock on our doors, or watch them mow the lawn on a warm summer day.
Neighbors are people Jesus refers to when he asks us to engage the world and proclaim his message.
A simple strategy yet profoundly difficult.
When I view my house as a castle – a private sanctuary to exercise my natural inclination to be left alone to recharge my battery – it is difficult to love my neighbor as myself. I struggle to get past the “good morning” wave because I’m too tired to engage.
If you are like me, I have some good news for us. Jesus forgives us. To love our neighbor as ourselves needs a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a refurbished zeal. Touched by his grace, filled with the fruits of Christ’s life in us, we can take that first step out of our comfort zones and be who God desires us to be – a good neighbor for the sake of the gospel.
I would like to offer the following suggestions to help us do that:
Be visible by taking slow meandering walks throughout your neighborhood. Pray for the houses that you walk by. And whenever you see a person, stop and chat with them. Introduce yourself and get to know their name. Be bold by asking how you can pray for them and their family. [I am discovering how powerful this walk can be.]
Be vulnerable and not worry about making a good impression or try to be somebody you are not. By remaining in Christ, your neighbors will see Christ through you. And that’s okay!
Be discerning in all your words and actions because your neighbors are watching. They observe you leaving for church on a Sunday morning and when you return. They watch how you interact with your spouse and children. Let’s not give our neighbors excuses to reject hearing the Truth when they see us behaving like a hypocrite.
Be gospel intentional. Keep your eyes and ears open to all opportunities that God provides. Be a first responder when people need help. Be that person in your neighborhood for people to go to when they have a spiritual question.
The Bible tells us to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ to anybody who asks. (1 Peter 3:15)
Anybody who asks? Isn’t that interesting.
It seems that part of being an evangelist for Christ is not necessarily pulling on sleeves to gain an audience but be willing to provide an answer when somebody tugs on our sleeve to ask a question.
That is a different dynamic.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves places ourselves into positions to have our sleeve tugged to answer a question. And that can start by getting to know the names of our neighbors and allowing them to know us.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves doesn’t stop at being a light for Christ but taking that next step to verbally reveal the source of that Light.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves means daily reminding ourselves to be gospel intentional throughout the day.
Love for Christ prompts us to be willing messengers and good neighbors. And God takes that willingness and provides us with opportunities to convey the reasons for the hope we have in Christ.
And that’s how believers reach the world with the Good News. It starts with our neighbor.