In the spring of 2016, WELS Home Missions provided funding for a new mission start in downtown Atlanta after several years of holding Bible studies and working with a core group on a detailed plan to serve the people in the center of the city. Lucas Bitter accepted the call to serve this new mission in 2017. Here he shares one of his early outreach experiences:
The power of the gospel
In August 2017, my family and I moved to a neighborhood near the center of Atlanta. We were excited to reach out to this diverse mission field, and we couldn’t wait to see what the Holy Spirit might accomplish here through the power of the gospel.
As it turned out, we didn’t have long to wait! On the weekend of my installation, our core group of lay members set up a booth at a local festival, where they gathered information from nearly seven hundred people via a short survey. More than one hundred people asked to be included on our e-mail list, and several dozen indicated interest in a Bible Basics class. One of them was a woman we’ll call “Rachel.”
What made Rachel particularly intriguing was that in the “church background” box on her survey, she had written atheist. Why would an atheist be interested in a Bible class? I was about to find out.
I met Rachel in a local coffee shop for our first Bible Basics lesson. As we discussed the topic of sin, Rachel expressed a great deal of anger. Anger at God for setting an unreachable standard of perfection. Anger at Christians for insisting that their way to heaven was the only way. Anger at her childhood church, which had bombarded her with rules and crushed her with guilt. However, as we moved on to the topic of God’s unconditional love for sinners, Rachel’s anger began to soften. She confessed, “I’ve never heard God described that way before. I understand what you’re saying, . . . but I don’t know that I can believe it.”
The next few lessons took over a month, as Rachel bombarded me with one tough question after another: evolution, the origin of evil, non-Christian religions, the canonicity of Scripture, the end of the world, etc. I didn’t have the answers to all her questions, but I did have the gospel. I explained, “Many Bible teachings are tough to understand, but we have to take this whole book seriously because it’s the only place in the world where we get the gospel.” This made sense to Rachel. She was beginning to see that Christians were not the narrow-minded, arrogant zealots she had once thought them to be—they were simply people who had found the gospel and wanted more of it.
We’ve now made it through a few more lessons, and this walk through Scripture has radically changed Rachel’s view of God. She no longer thinks of God as a cruel dictator but rather as a patient, loving father. She no longer bombards me with skeptical questions but rather expresses the gospel in her own words and talks of sharing it with friends and family. She looks forward to upcoming Bible study lessons, to our worship launch next summer, and to attending church for the first time in years.
I don’t know what Rachel’s future holds or if she will end up joining our congregation. But I do know this: After only a few short weeks in the city, God has already used our ministry to add a new member to his invisible church. He has called a self-professed atheist out of the darkness and into his wonderful light.
Praise God for his powerful Word and pray that he sends many more “Rachels” our way!
Lucas Bitter serves as a home missionary at Intown Lutheran Church, Atlanta, Georgia.
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Author: Lucas Bitter
Volume 105, Number 2
Issue: February 2018
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