We are a small congregation with an average attendance around 65 adults. Twelve years ago, we had a vibrant and energetic evangelism heart with an active evangelism committee. Over the years we hung thousands of door hangers inviting the neighborhoods around the church to events like Christmas and Easter for Kids, VBS, and special classes on doctrine.
We had very few visitors from these efforts. Over the years we offered ministries such as English as a second language, a group for those struggling with terminal illness, a group for the elderly, a group for those struggling with drugs and or alcohol. We had very little response and no visitors.
Then we started a daughter congregation, 63 miles from us. It slowly grew to about 25 in attendance, but then just as we are getting into a position to call a pastor, almost all the families announced they were moving from the area. So, after three years that ministry closed.
Then our enthusiasm for evangelism began to wane. We would have an evangelism committee meeting with only the chairman and myself in attendance. We lost traction in our evangelism effort, for we lost the drive.
About two years ago, we realized that if we did nothing we might will lose the ability to proclaim the Gospel in this corner of God’s Kingdom. We had meetings with the District Mission Board and the Board for Home Missions to gain their advice. Our synod mission counselor, Pastor Mark Birkholz, recommend we give Praise and Proclaim a try to gain traction in evangelism.
Thank the Lord we followed this advice. We started with phone conversations between the head of Praise and Proclaim, Dave Malnes, and a couple of our church leaders. That led to a recommendation that we give it a try. But first, Dave had more conversations with the church council via Skype. Since there was cost involved we decided to go to the Voter’s Assembly. We explained the program to the congregation to preparation to getting the congregation to approve the program.
Part of that effort was for Dave to make several YouTube videos in which he personally addressed our congregation. Dave was very thorough and was able to present the program explaining the program involved a very simple way to share the gospel with anyone in a non-aggressive manner. He was careful to point out that his program would not result in prospects coming to church and in fact may not get any. But, the program would train our people to share and give us a plan to reach out into the community. Every member would be invited to come and we explained they could come even if they did not want to participate.
The congregation agreed, and the Voters’ Assembly approved the expenditure. What a blessing it has been. The response was incredible. We have nearly half of the active members take the training, many simply to learn how to share the gospel with friends, family, and neighbors. We had about 10 members also participate in the door to door canvass. The canvassing was very simple. We had mailed 1200 post cards to neighborhoods near the church. We knocked on doors and explained the meaning of the postcard, which presented a question of the uncertainty of our world. We then simply told those at the door that in his world of uncertainty our congregation proclaimed the certainty of salvation through faith in Jesus. It was very non-threatening.
The training went so well, that some members I never would have thought, wanted to engage the neighborhood by going door to door. Dave also provided us a plan for follow and encouraged us to have various events to invite anyone we identified as having some interest.
The great blessing of our use of Praise and Proclaim is that it has ignited a desire to do evangelism and has given us traction in our efforts. We now have an evangelism committee that meets month. It is lay lead. In fact, due to a serious knee infection I was really home-bound except for coming to church and sitting in the back. All during this time, committee functioned meeting, planning and carrying out plans
If you see a need to train and encourage your congregation to do evangelism, then consider Praise and Proclaim. By careful planning and participation, you too may find traction for evangelism. If you are no sure, feel free to call me!
(Rev. Bob Green, Ascension Lutheran Church, Harrisburg, PA)