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WELS members support Christmas outreach program

Approximately 70 percent of WELS congregations participated in the synodwide Christmas outreach program known as C18. WELS Congregational Services created myriad materials for congregations to use to encourage members to reach out to the unchurched and to promote the theme “A Light in the darkness.”

“When we began C18,” says Rev. Jon Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, “we said our goal was ‘to reach’ one million souls prior to and on Christmas Eve. I realize ‘reach’ is a nebulous term. That was intentional. It is impossible for congregations to track how many people a member invites to Christmas Eve. So it is hard to quantify. What I can report is that at least 1.2 million ‘A Light in the darkness’ Christmas Eve postcards were shared.”

Hein also notes that through follow-up surveys, he has discovered ancillary benefits to this Christmas outreach effort. One of those benefits is a renewed focus on evangelism in some congregations.

One survey respondent commented, “I have prayed for years for God to make me bold enough to share the gospel. I have now done this . . . several weeks in a row for C18 and have had very positive results. I plan to continue this method of inviting neighbors to my church year-round for different events.”

Another said, “I don’t know if we had more visitors than normal [attend our Christmas Eve service]. I can say our people were excited about trying to invite their friends and family to church. I think they will continue to do that, which will have a longer lasting impact than can be measured by one worship service.”

In addition to evangelism materials, Congregational Services offered worship resources as well as family Advent devotions.

As one WELS member wrote, “I loved that C18 focused on reaching unbelievers. But I also love that it stressed feeding our children with God’s Word.”

After hearing from WELS members about the blessings that this Christmas program offered, Congregational Services is now planning resources for C19.

To read Hein’s full report about C18, visit welscongregationalservices.net/c18-our-christmas-efforts.

Fearlessly proclaim the gospel

Students heard the voice of experience Jan. 16 at Martin Luther College’s (MLC) 14th annual Evangelism Day. Following the theme “Fearlessly Proclaim the Gospel,” 30 presenters shared their expertise and personal stories, encouraging students to communicate Christ in their personal lives and their public ministries.

Students had positive reactions “I’ve never been more excited to be a minister of the gospel!” says Josh Wordell. Abby Mleziva adds, “It’s encouraging to see all the different ways that God’s Word is being spread and then picturing how we can fit into the body of Christ doing the same work.”

“It was a great reminder of why we’re here,” says Zach Kopplin. “I came out with this zeal for evangelism,” says Aislinn Eddy. “It’s not just about global missions. It’s about evangelism right where you’re at too.”

For the second year, MLC offered four evening presentations to the public: witnessing to Muslims, doing ministry in Spanish, sharing Jesus with little children, and the role of reason in Lutheran apologetics.

New this year is E-Day Action Day, a follow-up to Evangelism Day on April 10. Students will take their learning to the streets as Dave Malnes, a WELS staff minister and the founder of Praise and Proclaim Ministries, leads students and other New Ulm WELS members in an outreach effort. Participants will receive two hours of training before they begin knocking on doors and a debriefing session afterward.

Outreach film bulk order deadline extended

Due to popular demand, the deadline for bulk rate orders of To the Ends of the Earth, the outreach film that tells the story of the apostle Paul and his work in Philippi, has been extended.

Now congregations and groups have until Sept. 28 to order quantities of 100 DVDs at a low bulk rate of $200 per box, plus shipping. Bulk orders that have been placed on or before Sept. 7 are shipping now. Orders placed by Sept. 28 will ship the first week of October.

More than 600 congregations have already ordered over 50,000 copies of the movie at this bulk rate.

“We are going to hand out DVDs at events in our area such as street festivals, etc.,” says Rev. Joel Petermann, pastor at Zion, Torrance, Calif. “It is our hope and prayer that those who watch this video will hear its gospel message and want to know more about Jesus so we can follow up with Bible class invitations and worship invitations.”

Petermann also notes that the outreach emphasis in the film will serve as a precursor to the upcoming C18 effort, a synodwide outreach campaign to reach one million people with the gospel message during the Christmas season. Film resources, including worship materials; adult, small group, teen, and children Bible studies; an Advent by Candlelight program; and personal reflections, discuss how to witness and share your faith.

“We hope the film reaffirms a mission mindset among our members,” says Rev. Michael Vogel, pastor at St. Paul, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “We will be doing a six-week sermon series and Bible study on the film in October and November. We will use the DVDs as part of our welcome package for visitors. We also will encourage our members to take one and share it with family and friends.”

Worship materials also can be used as an option for celebrating the synodwide Mission and Ministry Sunday planned for Oct. 21. All congregations received a free DVD of the film for this purpose.

To the Ends of the Earth is the final installment in a series of four outreach movies that are a collaboration between WELS Commission on Evangelism, WELS Commission on Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. Learn more, bulk order copies, and watch a film preview at wels.net/totheendsoftheearth.

 

 

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New outreach film set to be released

The new WELS outreach film To the Ends of the Earth will be released Sept. 1.

The film tells the story of the apostle Paul and his work in Philippi. Its title is taken directly from Jesus’ command to his disciples at his Ascension: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “Since the movie focuses on mission activity, it reminds us of the important work that we have as we serve Christ—to reach out with the gospel to the ends of the earth,” says Rev. Mike Hintz, retired director of WELS Commission on Evangelism who serves as a consultant for the film.

That’s why film resources, including worship materials; adult, small group, teen, and children Bible studies; an Advent by Candlelight program; and personal reflections, will discuss how to witness and share your faith.

One way congregations can use the film and its resources is in connection with WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday, which the Conference of Presidents is encouraging all congregations to observe on Oct. 21. “It’s an opportunity to give thanks as we look at the ways we in WELS as congregations and a synod work to reach out with the gospel, but also to look at opportunities that are still around us and how to make the most of them as we continue to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth,” says Hintz.

By Sept. 1, every congregation will receive a free DVD of the movie for this purpose. Film resources will also be available for download by mid-August. “We pray congregations will take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate God’s blessings on his church and to renew our commitment to the Great Commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:18-20),” says Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of the Ministry of Christian Giving.

Congregations can bulk order additional copies of the DVD to use as giveaways to congregation members and prospects or for other outreach efforts. The DVDs are available in boxes of 100 DVDs at only $200 per box, plus shipping. Bulk orders must be received by Sept. 7, 2018.

This movie is the final installment in a series of four outreach movies that are a collaboration between WELS Commission on Evangelism, WELS Commission on Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. Funding from CM CARES, the Church Mutual Insurance Company Foundation; WELS Foundation’s Shared Blessings donor advised fund; WELS Multi-Language Publications; and gifts from groups, congregations, and individuals helped make this film possible.

Learn more about the film at wels.net/totheendsoftheearth.

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Outreach Sunday resources available

The Commission on Evangelism, Board for Home Missions, and Northwestern Publishing House have prepared materials for congregations to host four different outreach Sundays in late 2017 and early 2018. These worship resources will focus on the three solas, the “alones” of the Reformation, plus the one on which we are all founded: Christ alone.

Nov. 5—Reformation and a focus on Scripture alone

Nov. 26—Christ the King Sunday and a focus on Christ alone

Dec. 17—Third Sunday in Advent and a focus on grace alone

Jan. 7, 2018—Epiphany and a focus on faith alone

Rev. Michael Hintz, director of the Commission on Evangelism, says these services are wonderful ways to review the history of the Reformation but also a great opportunity to share its message with unchurched family and friends. “It’s important to learn more about what the Lutheran Reformation is all about,” he says, “but most important is what God is revealing to us about himself in the Bible.”

Materials will include text studies, suggested sermon outlines, children’s message ideas, music suggestions, worship service outlines, and tips for visitor follow-up.

Download these free resources at wels.net/reformation500/resources.

 

 

 

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Online class for friendship evangelism

The Commission on Evangelism is offering an online course on friendship evangelism April 6 to May 8 through the continuing education program at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.

Taught by Rev. John Huebner, retired mission counselor, the class is designed to enable learners to confidently share their faith in a personal, transparent, and informed approach.

While anyone can take the class, Rev. Mike Hintz, director of the Commission on Evangelism, says the course speaks directly to lay members. “It’s not about congregational evangelism and program. It’s about talking to your neighbor, to your friend at work, and to your relative,” says Hintz. “It’s being able to understand the obstacles and challenges but also to take what we already know and grow in our confidence to share Jesus with others.”

This course is one of three that make up an Evangelism certificate program through MLC, along with “The Mission of the Church” and “Practical Evangelism for Congregations.” “Evangelism is the work that God has given us as the church to do,” says Hintz. “These classes are designed to help members of WELS—lay members or called workers—to grow in the understanding and skill in evangelism so they can help their congregation with this important work and also be better able to do it in their personal lives.” Anyone can take individual courses, even those not interested in pursuing the certificate.

Hintz says the goal is to offer each course once a year. After the upcoming course on friendship evangelism, “The Mission of the Church” will be offered this summer, starting June 15, and “Practical Evangelism” for Congregations in fall, starting Sept. 14.

While there are fees for taking these courses, Hintz suggests that congregations consider budgeting funds for congregational lay leaders to pursue this opportunity.

Learn more about the courses and how to register at www.wels.net/evangelism. Class size is limited.

200th School of Outreach

On Oct. 4, WELS Commission on Evangelism held its 200th School of Outreach event. The School of Outreach program helps WELS congregations with planning, assistance, and resources for evangelism programming and implementation of outreach strategies.

Originally, the School of Outreach was held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. Then congregations began hosting the program, and nearby congregations would also attend. This “satellite” School of Outreach made it possible for more congregations to participate. The first satellite School of Outreach was held in September 1993 in Modesto, Calif., and eight congregations attended. Since then, the total number of registered congregations has been 1,344. Over the years, many congregations have attended more than once.

“The School of Outreach gave us an opportunity to evaluate our community, to dig into God’s Word, and then to wrestle with how we might continue taking the Word to the community in which we live,” says Rev. Joel Russow, pastor at Faith, Tallahassee, Fla. “It was a blessing to have our members wrestling with these things. We left invigorated by the tremendous message and the ripe opportunities before us.”

Faith attended School of Outreach sessions in September 2013 and February 2014. The current program is broken into two one-day sessions that are separated by several months. District evangelism commission members conduct the sessions and stay in touch with congregations after they attend to provide follow-up assistance specific to the needs of the congregations.

Russow notes, “The School of Outreach presenters have a contagious zeal for reaching out with the gospel of Jesus, and they were a Barnabas to us. It was also mutually edifying to spend a couple Saturdays with the other WELS congregations in our ‘area’— who drove from 2 to 3 hours away—studying God’s Word and discussing outreach. It made us thankful for the partnership that we share in the gospel.”

Throughout the 200 School of Outreach events that have been held, many changes have taken place. Rev. Mike Hintz, director of WELS Commission on Evangelism, notes, “Evangelism directors have come and gone, but one person has been involved with all 200 events. That person is Audrey Bluhm, the administrative assistant for the Commission on Evangelism, who helps coordinate all the details for these events. I’m so thankful for her service.”

For more information about the School of Outreach, visit www.wels.net/evangelism or call 414-256-3287.