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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.

Start the year with Interactive Faith

January is two months away and what better way to start a new year than with a new Interactive Faith online Bible study series.

Beginning Wed., Jan. 7, 2015, Rev. David Scharf, Immanuel, Greenville, Wis., will lead a six-week study called “Breaking the Cycle with Grace (a study of the book of Judges).”

Scharf says of the topic, “It has been said that nearly every doctrine of the Bible can be found in the biblical narratives contained in the book of Judges. That fact alone merits a deeper look! And yet, how often have we read, let alone studied this action-packed book of God’s grace? In our lives, we go through cycles of ups and downs—we think God is pleased one moment and that he is not the next. Come and break the cycle of uncertainty with grace as we study a book full of God’s love and patience!”

The study will be streamed live online twice every Wednesday night between Jan. 7 and Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central).

Thousands of WELS members have participated in the Interactive Faith Bible studies, which are held twice a year and led by a WELS pastor or professor. Many congregations gather as a group for the study; other WELS members connect as couples or individuals. The studies are designed to have 10 to 15 minutes of lecture by the instructor, followed by 5 to 10 minutes for congregations to discuss a question or two or do further study. Participants can interact with the instructor via the chat box.

To learn more or join the study, go to www.wels.net/interactivefaith.

Evangelical Lutheran Confessional Forum meets

Leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and WELS met Oct. 20-21 at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis. The biennial meeting provides the sister synods an opportunity to discuss theological topics, share information, and encourage each other through worship.

“The gathering of leaders and representatives of the WELS and ELS is a time to enjoy the blessed fellowship we share. Not only is it encouraging and uplifting to focus on God’s Word together, it is always a boost to learn more about what each synod is doing and to discover means of cooperation and mutual assistance,” says Rev. Michael K. Smith, professor at Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, Mankato, Minn.

Twelve leaders from each synod attended the forum, where they updated one another on mutual issues in the synods and then participated in small group discussions. Three theological essays were presented and discussed during the plenary session.

“The ELS/WELS Forum is a treasure. We are able to see how genuine Lutheran brothers are handling similar situations, and we gain a profound appreciation for the diverse fruits of the Spirit as he gives them to the church,” says Rev. Paul Prange, administrator for ministerial education and global cross-cultural outreach.

The forum began in 1967 after the Synodical Conference, a fellowship organization between WELS, ELS, and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) dissolved due to doctrinal differences with the LCMS.

“The exchange of information about our respective synods’ programs is so important to our ongoing fellowship. And the opportunity for personal, as well as professional, interaction is always encouraging,” says Rev. Steven Petersen, ELS Board for World Outreach administrator.

Fellowship between these two church bodies means that they work together on joint mission and ministry programs. It also means that pastors of either synod may preach in congregations of the other and that calls into the ministry and membership transfers between the synods can take place. Because the two synods are in fellowship with each other, members from each synod may worship and commune in congregations of either synod.

The next Evangelical Lutheran Confessional Forum will take place Oct. 17-18, 2016, at Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary.

Synodical Council gathers for fall meeting

The Synodical Council (SC) will hold its fall meeting on Friday and Saturday of this week. The major item of business is the initial discussion of the Ministry Financial Plan (budget) for 2015-2017 that will be recommended to the synod convention next July.

Work on the plan began last summer as areas of ministry each developed their plans. The SC had directed the areas of ministry to plan for a “no increase” budget initially. The president’s office, along with the President’s Advisory Council, then adopted an overall plan last month. That plan will be presented to the SC for consideration at this meeting. The plan still will be able to be adjusted in the coming months (depending on funding available from Congregation Mission Offerings and other sources). A final recommendation will be adopted by the SC in February.

There is more good news about Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO). Mission offerings from congregations are continuing at a strong and encouraging pace. October offerings were very strong with an increase of 8.4% over 2013 and $321,000 more than projected for the month of October. Year-to-date CMO is up 3.1% over 2013 and $451,000 over projections. Once again, the Lord has moved his people to respond to his grace with generous thank offerings. We thank him, and we thank God’s people for their faithfulness in supporting our work as a synod.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder