Gaining an Audience to Hear the Word
I wonder if Peter thought Jesus was crazy.
An experienced fisherman, he knew where and when fish were most likely to be caught. When Jesus told him to go back into the deep waters and throw the net out, it was probably the stupidest idea he had ever heard. Worn out and exhausted from a long day of catching nothing, Peter was probably in no mood to try an idea that he thought had little chance of succeeding.
Especially from a carpenter!
“But because you say so, [Peter replied] I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)
When hearing the call to proclaim the Good News, disheartened, seasoned believers can balk like Peter. Holding an empty net in their hands after another outreach event, they look at paltry results and empty pews and mutter, “What’s the point? Nothing seems to work.”
And then they hear a crazy idea.
“You want me to go out into the deep waters of this world to throw a net? You want me to talk to unchurched people who appear to be disinterested, disengaged, and disrespectful of organized religion?” Worn out and exhausted, they think to themselves, “Nobody cares. They are not going to listen! Trust me, there are no fish to catch!”
“But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)
In this oversaturated world with information overflow, there are many nets in the water already. Fake news, click bait, and empty promises routinely snag unsuspecting browsers.
Companies and start-ups struggle to capture the attention of potential buyers. The successful ones who are separating themselves from others are painstakingly building credibility – a reputation of quality. They call this “branding”. It’s not about designing an attractive logo but gaining an audience by delivering on promises one customer at a time.
Gaining an audience to hear God’s Word is a mighty struggle.
People are disengaging themselves from the church for a variety of reasons. Many of them have had bad experiences at church or have observed professing Christians behaving badly. The next generation is rejecting their parent’s notion that they must go to church for the sake of going to church. The perceived brand of a church is unwelcoming, judgmental, money-hungry and irrelevant.
It’s not that the Word no longer works, but the Word is struggling to get out.
What are some ways for churches to gain an audience to hear the Word?
We gain an audience by building a platform of trust.
Trust compels people to try you out.
In the business world, it’s about creating a “set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decisions to choose one product or service over another.” (Seth Godin)
Gaining an audience is not about making a church attractive but being real. It’s about presenting yourselves – stains and all – as real people who are daily trusting and immersing themselves on the message of the cross.
People today are willing to invest themselves in people, not ideas.
We gain an audience by welcoming and accepting broken people.
Churches tend to communicate something they are not. They use stock photos of beautiful people who look put together. Christian catchphrases that are meaningful for seasoned believers can come across as “churchy” to the unchurched. People are not looking for phoniness whether its unintentional or not.
A welcoming church takes on the attitude of “being all things to all people so that by all possible means they might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22) This means preparing to welcome and accept people who are not like themselves.
Broken people are desperately seeking for a place to belong. Many are biblically illiterate. It’s not that they are rejecting the Truth, it’s that they have never heard it clearly communicated before. They don’t know that they don’t know. And many times, people are not willing to admit that they don’t know until life throws them a curveball. Broken and shattered, they desperately are looking for answers that the world is not providing.
Those are the people who are walking through church doors on a Sunday morning.
If Christians think its scary going canvassing, it is even more scary for an unchurched person to come to church on a Sunday morning when they don’t know anybody. They are making a huge personal investment. They are taking an enormous risk. They are giving your church a “free 30-day trial” to test your product and service. They are savvy shoppers who typically look for any excuse to lose their trust.
We gain an audience by being welcoming and transparent. We keep an audience by telling our story.
Life-long Christians baptized as infants have wonderful stories to tell.
The greatest stories are not necessarily how an unbeliever receives faith, but how a seasoned believer remains in the faith.
People watch and observe. They are willing to hear how you weather the storms of life, keep temptations at bay, and exhibit peace, hope, and love when the world seems dark.
Despite what believers perceive on the outside, people are willing to hear reasons for the hope that believers have in Christ.
Rooted in Christ, our stories center on Christ and trusting his promises. Believers don’t have to paint a rosy picture of themselves to make Christ attractive, nor present ourselves as wise and eloquent, but point to the source of our Trust lest we rob the message of its power.
Businesses grow by word-of-mouth. Churches gain an audience by developing a powerful Word-of-mouth network. Reputations are built and stories are told. And people remember stories and faces far more than they remember facts.
Personal evangelism is a crazy idea.
Jesus told the disciples “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” This charge is given to all who believe in him and reiterated in the Great Commission. To be fishers of men means you don’t wait for people to jump into your boat, but you go out into the dark, murky water of sin and put nets into the water.
Word and sacrament gospel ministries that are overflowing with grace and peace can’t help but take Christ at his Word. With pure thankfulness for what Christ has done, we prayerfully consider crazy ideas.
Go into the world and make disciples of all nations seems like a wild notion.
Yet, believers do so, not because they think it will work or not…
“But because you say so…”
Proclaiming the gospel in Nampa ID
Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho recently celebrated its twenty-fifty anniversary. The Lord is blessing the gospel ministry and give thanks to him for almost six hundred baptized members.
The WELS Board of Home Missions is providing support to help Cross of Christ begin a second site. With explosive growth in the Treasure Valley, there is now an estimated 700,000 people living in the area. It is expected that the population will exceed one million people in the next twenty years. It is perfect timing to start another WELS congregation in the north side of Nampa. Rev. Kurt Wetzel from Cross of Christ-Boise is spearheading the outreach efforts.
Earlier in the year, a ministry center was leased in an office complex in the targeted area. Several different outreach activities were carried out to introduce Cross of Christ Lutheran Church to the surrounding community and gather a list of people who may be interested to be a part of the new campus site. Bible instruction classes along with Grief Share and Divorce Care meetings were held at the new ministry center.
The first worship service will be held Sunday, November 24th at JaK’s Neighborhood Grill located only a few blocks from the ministry center. Each Sunday morning, the restaurant is allowing a team to set up a worship space and conduct worship services beginning at 9:30 a.m. The space will comfortably hold 50-60 people to help the new campus site get started.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries had the privilege of partnering with Cross of Christ to help enhance their gospel ministry by providing personal evangelism training the weekend of November 15-16.
In working with Cross of Christ, a new postcard was developed that incorporated the theme, “A Place to Belong.” This theme will be utilized and made available for all future outreach initiatives in 2020.
On Friday evening, the training emphasized general evangelism. The following day, participants attempted to incorporate the evangelism methodology by going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel. In the afternoon, participants received an opportunity to make personal visits with new friends of Cross of Christ. These individuals and families had attended outreach activities held during the summer or attended workshops at the ministry center.
The Lord blessed the gospel activity. Many people we met at the door remembered receiving the postcard in the mail. One young mother who received a follow-up visit was thrilled to hear that worship services were going to start only a few blocks from her apartment complex. She volunteered to help get the word out by hand-delivering our half-page invites.
It was powerful to see members from Cross of Christ to experience an opportunity to verbally proclaim the gospel. Many of the participants were already experienced canvassers. However, they now felt comfortable and equipped to give reasons for the hope they have in Christ with people they met at the door. They also discovered that there is power in a face-to-face contact with people from the community. We ask the Lord to bless the new second site in North Nampa. May they continue to aggressively spread the Word in the community and provide Good News about what Christ has already done for us.
Proclaiming the gospel in Glendale AZ
Arizona is pleasant place to visit in November. With temperatures in the lower 80’s, the warm dry air feels comfortable to the bones to those travelling from colder climates. Praise and Proclaim gives thanks to God for travelling to Glendale and partner with Grace Lutheran Church.
With a wonderful mixture of old and new, Grace Lutheran has a long history of gospel ministry. The church and school are located only a few blocks away from the old downtown district of Glendale. With roots dating back to the 1920s, the congregation now has almost 700 baptized members and a K-8 School with seven teachers and a principal. They also offer an early childhood program that enrolls over twenty preschool students. In 2006, a beautiful new sanctuary was completed. This includes a narthex area and a spacious multi-purpose room.
A focal point for the personal evangelism training was to prepare members to engage guests who will be attending the annual Living Nativity that is held in early December on the campus of Grace Lutheran. This event has become a part of the city’s tradition. At the center square of old downtown Glendale, several horse-drawn wagons take visitors on a hayride to watch and listen to the Christmas story. Hot cider is provided along with an assortment of fun activities. Last year, a line of people a block and a half long waited patiently to go on the hayrides. It was estimated that a thousand to fifteen hundred people attended the two-day event.
The evangelism committee at Grace wanted to use the evangelism training to personally engage the guests who will be arriving at the Living Nativity. Along with the help of 90 members who participate in conducting the event, our goal was to help prepare a small team to comfortably interact with people, personally invite them to Christmas Eve services, and provide a few reasons for the hope they have in Christ.
A major component of the Praise and Proclaim training includes opportunities for members to immediately put their training into action. After two and a half hours on Friday evening, members arrived the following Saturday to experience stranger evangelism in the morning (door-to-door witnessing) and friendship evangelism in the afternoon.
Friendship evangelism meant making visits with people who were considered friends of Grace Lutheran Church. They are guests who have visited the church on Sunday morning in the past year. This was an opportunity to learn how to comfortably engage friends and have members participate in future follow-up activities. Members from Grace discovered that their personal visits were well-received and appreciated.
With every outreach initiative, the Lord typically provides a spark of hope and encouragement. This happened in Glendale. As time approached the noon hour break, a two-person team knocked on the door that was answered by a middle-aged woman. After inviting her to come to the Living Nativity, she asked if a person had to be a member of a church in order to attend. She told the team that she is not a church member and hasn’t been to a church in years. After assuring her that she would be most welcome to attend, she handed back the invitation and said, “There is no way Jesus could ever love me.”
The opportunity was granted to share with this woman the depth of Christ’s love and grace that is extended to all people. Upon hearing this message, she asked, “Can I ask you a question?” She revealed to them that after re-marrying her husband a second time, she had caught him committing an act of adultery two weeks ago. Her daughter and only grandchild quickly left their house to live in another state. Alone, devastated, and with tears of hurt and hopelessness rolling down her cheeks she asked, “What do I do? Should I leave him? Ever since I was in Kindergarten, everything bad happens to me. How can Jesus be a part of all that has happened to me? He always seems to turn his back on me.”
When placed in these circumstances, a believer can rest in God’s promises and assurances. He can provide wisdom and words whenever we ask for help. The Lord answered that prayer and helped provide an answer for this hurting woman. The team shared,
“I am so sorry. That must have been devastating. I can only imagine the hurt and betrayal you are feeling right now. Please let me assure you that Jesus does love you. He desires to embrace you and hold you close with his love. He knows your pain and your hurt. He wants to give you peace for the present and hope for the future. I’m glad you are receiving professional help right now (she told them they she had started to see a therapist last week). But I want you to know that there are members at Grace Lutheran who are ready to love and embrace you. They will not judge, but continually pray for you. You don’t have to be alone or feel isolated. But more importantly, Jesus is a Savior who washes away the guilt, sin, and feelings of unworthiness. He fills you with hope and peace through his hands of forgiveness that he has won for you on the cross. In the meantime, let’s take one hour at a time and one day at a time. And in your journey to find healing and hope, I want you to be assured that Christ walks with you.”
The conversation lasted about fifteen minutes at the door. Comforted by the words, she took the invitation back that she had originally returned. Buoyed with the possibility of hope, she agreed to give her contact information and would welcome a text from the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.
This is an example of what happens when church members step out of their comfort zones and into the world. God provides amazing opportunities to spread his message and his love to others. He uniquely provides opportune moments to engage hurting people who may be struggling mightily on the inside while trying desperately to keep a calm demeanor on the outside. Meeting this woman was a wonderful source of encouragement for members to continue to go out into the community to bring the Word to people.
May the Lord continue to bless the gospel ministry at Grace Lutheran Church and the group of “mighty warriors” who are willing and ready to introduce Christ in the community. And may they take full advantage of the number of people who plan on attending the Living Nativity this year by giving them the reason for the hope they have in Christ.
A Christian response to the possibility of alien life
A Christian response to the possibility of alien life
The U.S. government recently admitted that they have commissioning studies about the existence of UFO’s and alien life. The U.S. military have studied first-hand reports from Navy pilots and seen the videos. They admit that the flying objects are a mystery.
The cable TV channels continually produce shows about the possibility of alien life. There are popular conferences about Area 51, the existence of Bigfoot, and conspiracies involving major historical events
People are fascinated with the unexplainable.
I confess that I enjoy gazing up into the stars at night and wonder at God’s creation. When I use my phone to track satellites and space stations as they pass by in the night sky, I wonder at the advancement of technology. And since our God is a big, mysterious God that goes well beyond our comprehension, I wonder about all that he has created that remains undiscovered.
How would the possibility of alien life affect a Christian worldview? How does the possibility of UFO’s square with a person’s faith in Christ?
With the advent of technology that allows us to gaze at the wonderment of the ever-expanding universe and the billions of stars throughout our galaxy…. is it okay for Christians to ponder the possibility of alien life on another planet?
This question was posed recently in an interesting blog post entitled “Are we Ready for Life on Mars?” by James Emery White. https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-james-emery-white/are-we-ready-for-life-on-mars.html
Many people dismiss the possibility of UFO’s and alien life as a hoax. They are convinced that most of what is deemed unexplainable always will have some type of explanation. And they could be right.
Miracles are also unexplainable.
Bible skeptics question the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. They dismiss the miraculous accounts of Christ along with the rest of the Old Testament miracles as legends.
Think about it. If you happened to go missing for three days after an afternoon at the beach, then suddenly emerge from the seashore with a wild story. You tell people that you were swallowed by a large fish then coughed up on shore. How would people respond? You could be an internet sensation. Your face could appear on the front page of several tabloids trying to make a buck. But most of us would be skeptical of your story.
The miraculous accounts in the Bible are unexplainable, but that’s not the point. God’s Word was not inspired and preserved so that we can believe that God parted the Red Sea during the time of Moses. The miracles declare that God is God and we are not.
The Bible answers the most fundamental questions that we need to be most concerned about – our relationship with him, our eternal life, our believe in Christ’s completed work on our behalf.
Faith is a miracle that can only be delivered by God’s hand through the power of his Word. This includes accepting certain questions where answers remain silent.
There are mysteries on earth that science has not been able to answer yet — including the possibility of life on other planets
Borrowing from James Emery White’s article, here are three theological truths that can help believers capture the essence of our faith in response to the unknowns in the universe.
- God is bigger than we think.
When it comes to life on other planets and future scientific discoveries, remembering the size of God will always keep us humble and slow to jump to conclusions. Science is a process and a constant testing and proving of theories. Those who believe in Christ can celebrate every scientific discovery and marvel with awe at what God has designed.
- All life is from God.
God is the Creator of the heavens and earth. Our human minds are not able to fully grasp what he has created on earth let alone what he has created in the heavens. We can’t begin to capture the mind of God and what he has designed in the universe. There could be many dimensions and realities throughout the universe that God has created that has yet to be revealed. And perhaps it might be a bit arrogant for us to think that life on earth is the extent of his creativity. We don’t know. But God does. And we can accept that.
If it were important for us to know about the possibility of alien life during our brief stay on earth, then God will reveal it. In the meantime, we can hold on to what we do know that has already been revealed to us. And that’s a miracle in of itself. The incarnate God came to this earth. He lived, died, and rose again.
- All of creation matters to God.
With all scientific discoveries, it is like peeling away billions of layers of an onion one piece at a time. A Christian can enjoy and not be threatened in its discoveries.
As Scriptures state, we can marvel at the earth and declare, “Look at what God has created!”
We can marvel at the heavens around us and declare, “Look at what God has created!”
And as the scientific community may be preparing to discover some type of life on other planets, we can anticipate the same discovery.
If scientists discover some type of life on another planet, we can rejoice by saying, “Wow. Look at what God created! God loves the earth and the universe!”
I confess that I’m skeptical about UFOs, the existence of Bigfoot, and alien life on other planets. I don’t buy into conspiracy theories. But I’m willing to be surprised by God if they are ever discovered.
While gazing up into the stars at night and an alien spaceship lands in my backyard, I look forward to finding out if they know Jesus Christ or not. What a discovery that will be!
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.