When you treat people with love and respect before proclaiming the gospel, most will respond back politely. This is what members from New Hope Lutheran Church in Toledo, OH learned when they went out into the neighborhood surrounding their church to plant seeds of the gospel. And the Lord opened doors for them to declare a brief message about what Christ has already done for us.
Located in a community north of downtown Toledo, New Hope Lutheran Church was founded as a daughter congregation by Apostles Lutheran Church back in the early 1960’s. Eventually, Apostles closed its doors and merged with St. Andrews Lutheran about ten years ago and changed its name to New Hope.
The membership consists of a few dozen faithful members and share their pastor with St. John Lutheran Church in Monroe, MI. With the possibility that New Hope may close its doors, the members made a bold decision to not shut its doors without one last intensive effort to reach out to the community surrounding their congregation. [Read their story: “Being a One Talent Church”]
On the weekend of June 1-2, Praise and Proclaim Ministries partnered with the congregation to launch an outreach initiative to provide intensive evangelism training. This included an immediate opportunity to put their training into action by going out door-to-door to verbally proclaim the gospel. This powerful component is designed to provide a well-organized experience for participants to trust God’s promises, recognize that evangelism is far more about God than about us, and that verbally proclaiming the gospel to lost souls is not nearly as scary as they thought.
When the training and witnessing experience concluded on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the participants rejoiced and celebrated that the Lord allowed them to proclaim the gospel ninety-six times that day.
Here are a few of their stories:
One of the participants was particularly nervous about going door-to-door. After observing in the morning, he courageously stepped out of his comfort zone in the afternoon to knock on doors. On the first dozen homes, nobody answered the door. Finally, one kind lady greeted the team and he started to put his training into action. The words nervously bumbled out and he forgot some of the things that he wanted to say. The lady patiently waited until he was finished. She smiled and said, “You haven’t gotten this far before, have you?” After a brief chuckle, the team received a valuable lesson that God uses each of us, despite our nerves or how we feel afterwards. When Christians have not received the experience to verbally proclaim the gospel, the first few times are scary and intimidating. It may feel like we are bumbling, but God still uses our words. People are far more apt to listen carefully with sympathetic ears when they come across a Christian who is stepping way outside their comfort zone to share a message of Good News that comes from God.
One seed planted.
Another team came across a house where you could see New Hope Lutheran Church through the maple trees in the backyard. When the front door didn’t open, a lady greeted them after exiting her garage. She was pleased to learn that they were from New Hope Lutheran. They only moved into the neighborhood six months ago. Her family had sporadically attended a church in the past and expressed genuine interest to belong to a church family that was close to her home. It was appealing that New Hope was a Lutheran Church because she knew that would please her grandmother. After giving the team her contact information, we look forward to utilizing a new follow-up module that was recently produced by Praise and Proclaim Ministries.
Another seed planted.
Upon returning home, one member pointed out to his team, “See all of those seeds from the maple trees lying on the ground and on the street. There are thousands of them. Yet, only one or two of those seeds might eventually become a maple tree. That is what we did today. We planted all those seeds with the hope and prayer that God will use one of those seeds to bring a lost soul to faith and be an ‘oak of righteousness’. And when that happens, today will be certainly worth it.”
We celebrated a successful day by having a wonderful barbecue dinner at church and asking the Lord to bless the seeds that were planted so that as many people as possible can be in heaven. Our exercise on Saturday was an opportunity for us to be God’s messengers so that the power of His Word can be unsheathed and reach the hearts and minds of souls lost in sin.
The outreach initiative ended on Sunday, but it was just the beginning for the members at New Hope Lutheran Church. A plan is in place to continue to aggressively put their training into action to proclaim the gospel in their community.
The plan includes taking full advantage of a golden opportunity right in their own backyard.
The church is located next to Shoreland Elementary school and immediately adjacent to a large field. Each Saturday morning during the spring, hundreds of parents and kids utilize the fields for soccer games. Now that members are equipped and prepared to boldly engage strangers and proclaim the gospel, members will be arriving at the fields for the next two weekends to invite people to come to their Neighborhood Carnival on Saturday, June 16th.
New Hope Lutheran Church
A small church family with a big heart.
This message resonated with people whom we met at their door. They are intrigued to meet actual members of a church in their neighborhood. They are interested to hear that this church cares about them. We ask the Lord to bless the evangelism activities at New Hope Lutheran according to his will and purpose. Members will continue to focus on proclaiming the gospel and leave results in God’s hands.