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.
Proclaiming the gospel in Seattle
Seattle is a beautiful city. On a warm, sunny day during the summer, the majestic mountains and the glistening waters makes the Emerald City stand out as a wonderful place to vi
Illumine Church is a new mission restart in North Seattle. Pastor Kent Reeder arrived from South Carolina a few months ago. While maintaining ties with Illumine in Rock Hill, SC the new start in Seattle will utilize similar methodology yet tailor their message and approach to a unique audience.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries had the privilege to launch an outreach initiative to help Illumine Church introduce themselves to the neighborhoods surrounding the congregation.
Grace Lutheran Church had existed in north Seattle for over fifty years. For the past several years, they shared a pastor with Salem Lutheran Church in Edmonds, WA. Together, the congregations voted to close their doors. After the sale of its property in Edmonds, the former members directed the district mission board to oversee the effort to rebuild on the Grace Lutheran property utilizing the funds from Salem. Plans are moving forward to build a new ministry center next to the sanctuary.
The people living in the Seattle community are unique. They are more global-minded than other regions in the U.S. and look for ways to serve their community. They seem more willing to support projects designed to help people in need, the environment, or animals. They are not interested in organized religion. And they are not afraid to tell you that.
Praise and Proclaim provides evangelism training for members so that they can verbally proclaim the gospel with comfort and confidence. We adapted our methodology and approach with the people we met at the door to introduce the new church on Greenwood Avenue. But even with that change, when the word “church” was mentioned, they immediately held up their hands and said, “I’m not interested. That’s not for me!” Some people were firmer than others to express themselves.
Though we met our share of people who may have not expressed interest in a church, the Lord did provide opportunities to provide a short gospel message. We also rejoiced that several people expressed interest to connect with Pastor Reeder and desire to be a part of the Illumine church family.
Pastor Reeder is aware of the challenge of restarting a new church. He is adapting his approach, the messaging, and how the ministry center will both serve the community and proclaim the message of the gospel. It was a joy to help introduce the ministry of Illumine to the community. The new ministry center is scheduled to be completed in 2020. In the meantime, we ask the Lord to bless the efforts of Pastor Reeder and a core group of members who are busy planning and introducing themselves to the community.
Images from Seattle
The outreach initiative was blessed to have members from Faith Lutheran Church in Prior Lake, MN who came to participate. They traveled to Seattle in partnership with WELS Mission Journeys. Together with members from Holy Trinity (Des Moines, WA), Cross of Christ (Boise) and St. Matthew (Spokane, WA), we were blessed with a group to go out and assist the gospel ministry at Illumine. It was exciting to see the vision, the planning, and the desire to connect with families in Seattle and proclaim the gospel to them. May the Lord continue to bless their efforts.
Seeking permission to proclaim
Evangelism is uncomfortable because the Truth is uncomfortable.
Believers are used by God to spread the aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14) and proclaim the knowledge of Truth. For those who are saved, it is fragrant. For those who are lost, the fragrance of Truth is repugnant (v. 15).
We live in an age where compassion, love, or tolerance means that we are not to invade somebody’s personal space. It means allowing people to do what they want contrary to the Truth – and be approving of their behavior.
Since we live in an age of comfort and don’t like to be uncomfortable, the fear of rejection or be labeled a fool is heightened.
Jesus often made people uncomfortable. He welcomed inconvenience. He risked rejection.
He revealed his love and compassion by asking difficult questions.
me?” (Mark 5:31)
“What do you want..?” (John 1:37)
You are Israel’s teacher… and do you not understand these things? (John 3:10)
You are right when you say you have no husband…” (John 4:17)
“What are you discussing…? (Luke 24:17)
Do you believe in the Son of Man? (John 9:35)
“Woman, why are you crying? (John 20:13)
There are some people who are prone to be confrontational. They are not afraid to ask difficult questions. Others grew up in families where it was important for their survival to keep feelings and problems to themselves. They avoided confrontation because the consequences were too risky.
Jesus helps all Christians by presenting a formula on how to step out of our comfort zones and engage our culture today.
Jesus asked questions to reveal the Truth.
Proclaiming the gospel can begin by asking pertinent, loving, probing questions. It expresses to the person that you care; you are interested in them; you are willing to be inconvenienced.
Instead of thinking about what you want to say next, catch yourself and ask a question that is directly related to what a person just said.
Instead of launching into an unrelated topic after a person is finished, follow up with appropriate questions to further another person’s thoughts.
When a person is more interested in getting their point across rather digging deeper to learn more about a person’s feelings, or attitudes, you may miss a golden opportunity. Instead of going around in circles to win the discussion, asking questions forces you to pause and listen. You may discover a clue on how to lead them toward hearing about what Jesus has already done for us.
When we ask questions, we are seeking permission to proclaim the Truth.
Sometimes a stubborn viewpoint contrary to Scripture really stems from having a bad experience at church. Listening uncovers this truth and provides a sympathetic ear that apologizes for sinful behavior. You are asking permission to proclaim the gospel.
Sometimes a rigid view contrary to what the Bible teaches come from disappointment in God. Tragedy or heart-felt loss can twist a heart and deny that God really cares about people. This perception can skew viewpoints and stubbornly resist the Truth. Asking probing questions uncovers this truth and provides a sympathetic ear. You are asking permission to proclaim the gospel.
Whenever Christians wonder how to start a spiritual conversation and proclaim the Truth, we can follow Jesus’ example. Ask probing questions and be led how to provide the hope that we have in Christ.
Thoughts from this post adapted from the article, “Jesus was nosy and you should be too” by Jim Morgan.