One of my greatest joys of traveling to congregations throughout the U.S. is to partner with seasoned, faithful Christians who live in a rural community and have seen their beloved rural church shrink in membership over the years. But this hasn’t stopped their love for missions!
It is impressive to see long-time members become willing vessels to learn how to communicate their love of Christ to others. Even though they may lack experience in personal evangelism, they are willing to learn.
This is the case in Dane County, Wisconsin.
The district mission board from western Wisconsin has targeted a blossoming bedroom community of Deerfield. Many new homes are being built for those who desire to live away from the big cities of Madison and Milwaukee. Since there is not a WELS Church within the city limits of Deerfield, it made sense to the mission board to investigate this community as a potential mission plant.
The faithful WELS pastors and members who live in the area have responded in a powerful way. Rev. Keith Hundley, pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Waterloo, is leading efforts to establish a core croup and spread the Word along with Rev. Paul Sharrer, pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Marshall, and their faithful members.
Praise and Proclaim was asked to come and help launch their efforts to plant a new church in Deerfield. This included:
- Training a core group of members how to apply a new axiom for evangelism strategies in a COVID-19 world. This means bringing the church to the community to spread God’s Word rather than relying heavily on inviting people to come to church and hear the Word.
- Supplementing an overall evangelism strategy by providing a strong digital evangelism campaign.
- Introducing the reasons for the hope we have in Christ to the community of Deerfield by providing an online message on hope and launch an identity to introduce a future congregation. This identity was behind the creation of a logo entitled, “Hope in Deerfield.”
- Establishing a strong email follow-up email system that engages people, builds relationships, and routinely invites interested members of the community to a variety of different mediums to hear God’s Word.
The on-site evangelism training took place at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lake Mills, WI. A beautiful new sanctuary and ministry opened last fall and they were gracious to allow us to utilize their facilities. We rejoice that over sixty members from a variety of WELS congregations in the area came for the training!
The following day, many participants and members of the core group returned to immediately put their training into action. They knocked on people’s doors to introduce themselves, provide a free pasta dinner on behalf of Hope in Deerfield, and invited them to view an on-line message about hope in Christ.
They told people that during these times it may be difficult to come to church on Sunday morning, so Hope in Deerfield is bringing its church to their doorstep to convey love and hope. By properly engaging people at their door, the participants discovered it was possible and comfortable to transition to proclaiming a short gospel message.
The overall impression of going door-to-door in Deerfield, WI is:
- Most people are totally fine to have members of a local Christian church at their door.
- There are people who may not be interested, but they are polite and cordial.
- It was impressive to meet a surprising number of people who told us that they do not have a church home.
- There were about a dozen families who told us that they just moved into the community and were looking for a new church.
- There were older, long-time residents of Deerfield who expressed genuine gratitude that a local church knocked on their door to express concern for their welfare during this time.
We are thankful that the Lord blessed us with a positive response from the community of Deerfield. The pastors and members came away encouraged and excited to continue the work of planting a new church.
But something even more important happened.
The people who participated are eager and feel equipped to give reasons for the hope they have in Christ to anybody. They now feel comfortable to engage their neighbors, friends, and family members and provide a short gospel proclamation. They understand that personal evangelism is far more about trusting God’s promises and his ability through his Word rather than our ability to proclaim. Prompted by love, they are looking forward to being God’s messengers and feel able to spread his Word and unleash its power throughout Dane County.
By properly engaging people at their door, the participants discovered it was possible and comfortable to transition to proclaiming a short gospel message.
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