Proclaiming the gospel in Winneconne WI
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:
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 Pflugerville TX
Pflugerville, TX is a growing city north of Austin with a population of 64,000. With toll-roads providing easy access to downtown, more families are moving into new homes that are spreading throughout the suburb region.
Holy Word Lutheran Church took advantage of this growth trend by starting a second site seven years ago. A gathering of believers met together and purchased a sizeable area of land with the intent to plant a new church and school. In the past year, a decision was made to turn the site into a separate congregation and CrossLife Church was born. Praise and Proclaim had the privilege to partner with Rev. Daron Lindemann and the members at the new church to provide evangelism training in conjunction with its grand opening in September.
Proclaiming the gospel in Dodge County WI
St John’s Lutheran Church in Juneau, WI has embarked on an effort to proclaim the gospel throughout Dodge County, WI. By expanding gospel ministry sites in Horicon and Lowell, Rev. Paul Schupmann and the leadership are ambitiously organizing and planting gospel seeds. The ministry site in Horicon is a new campus that began a year ago. The Lord is blessing their efforts.
It was a privilege for Praise and Proclaim Ministry to arrive in Juneau the weekend of June 7-9, 2019 to launch our forty-sixth outreach initiative. This was our fifth time in Wisconsin and it helped cement our view that this state is a great mission field.
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.
Are you a phygital church?
A new term has infiltrated into the mainstream of marketing and consumerism. Businesses are attempting to be “phygital” by blending a physical presence with a strong digital platform. The idea is to create a bridge between the digital brand and the physical experience so that they may have both at the same time. (See “Phygital: Six ways for businesses to adapt or die.” Source: https://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/458/190287.html
In this technological world that is changing with breathtaking speed, it’s hard for anybody to keep up let alone adapt whenever a new digital concept is introduced into our society. How can churches respond and remain relevant while attempting to communicate the gospel message in their community?
Churches can start by observing how businesses are adapting in today’s market.