Des Moines, IA 09-2018

“Oh! I love your sign!”

When congregations engage their neighbors, they are often surprised what they hear. People notice things. They observe activity, new construction, and even church signs. It seems that for some people who live close to your church, they are just waiting to meet a face from the congregation and be invited to hear God’s Word.

Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church in Des Moines, IA [lhelc.org] partnered with Praise and Proclaim Ministries to launch an outreach initiative the weekend September 21-23. They immediately went out into the neighborhood to personally proclaim the gospel.

In the 1960’s a new WELS church started in a community south of downtown Des Moines and close to the airport. It originally started in a rental facility in a neighborhood that was known as Lincoln Heights. Several years later, they built a church several blocks away and kept their identity with the neighborhood. Over time, the neighborhood is no longer referred to as Lincoln Heights, but the congregation continues to keep and preserve its former identity.

It was a joy for Praise and Proclaim to partner with the members to enhance their outreach efforts and receive training to personally proclaim the gospel. The congregation was already reaching out the community in several ways. A member was actively leading a ministry to the homeless. Each week, a core group of members assemble 70 lunches and personally deliver them to the homeless. They go to the homeless who have pitched tents under bridges and other locations throughout the city. They are also in the process of removing a large grassy area behind the church and turning it into area filled with native grasses and flowers. Due to their outreach efforts, there are now several Sundanese families that regularly attend worship services on Sunday morning.

Praise and Proclaim came to launch an outreach initiative to reach out to homes in their immediate neighborhood. It is an older, middle-class neighborhood, many of the homes built in the 1940s and the 1950s. Most homes and yards are well kept with a good mix of young families and retired couples.

We were blessed with a beautiful fall day with temperatures near 70. Many people were outside working on the yard, walking the dog, or utilizing any excuse to be outside on a sunny day in September.

The main emphasis for the outreach initiative was to train people how to comfortably and confidently proclaim the gospel.  The only way we can receive this confidence comes from trusting the promises and assurances God gives to all Christians who step out in faith to share their faith with others. With an emphasis on utilizing a methodology that treats people with love and respect and finding joy in planting the seeds of God’s Word, people received the opportunity to go out door-to-door to immediately apply their training. By doing so, members find themselves more emboldened to proclaim the gospel with people within their personal network.

The outreach initiative also provided a new component.  After lunch, every two-person team received 3-4 addresses to make follow-up visits with families who either attended worship or had their child participate in a recent youth outreach event (Christmas for Kids, VBS). The teams utilized a similar approach and methodology they practiced in the morning and were able to seamlessly transition to sharing the gospel with families who were already familiar with Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church.

The Lord blessed our day and opened doors of opportunity. At the end of the day, we celebrated that our teams shared a gospel message with 101 people.

”Oh, I love the sign!

In front of the church, Lincoln Heights Lutheran has a large, visible sign. Each week, a member faithfully comes up with different sayings. Many people that were visited at the door were familiar with the location of the church. It was also very encouraging to hear several people comment about the sign. They would say:

“I love your sign.”

“I read your sign every day I go to work!”

“Are you the church with the sign?”

We were blessed to have extended conversations with people who may have stated, “I haven’t been to church in a long time.” One elderly gentleman lived a few doors down from the church. He told the team at his door, “I have considered coming.”  It’s fascinating how people who live within blocks of the church almost seem to be waiting for a personal invitation from a member to come and worship with them on a Sunday morning or give a reason for the hope they have in Christ.

We were blessed that several dozen members plus a few guests came for the training on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, thirteen people went out into the community to proclaim the gospel.

“I think I was getting more out of proclaiming the gospel than the people I was talking to!”

We rejoice with the opportunity the Lord gives us to be his messengers. Our prayers go with the ongoing gospel ministry at Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church and its faithful members.  The Lord promises that that the field are ripe for harvest and the workers are few. We can be confident that there is a core group of members at Lincoln Heights who are part of those few. May the Lord bless their plans to continue to put their training into action in the weeks and months ahead.

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