Prospects from the Dinosaur-Age

A couple weeks ago, bones from a mastodon were discovered on a street corner while digging in Daytona Beach, FL. It was a rare mastodon from a prehistoric era, one of only thirteen discovered in the entire state. When I think mastodons, I think of some families on my church prospect list. Got any mastodon-era prospects on yours? There they lie buried deep down after so many years … .

Twelve years ago, I met the Goodwin family while doing outreach flyers for VBS in our neighborhood. Their 10-year old daughter attended and was baptized. You’re thinking, “Eventually, they became members, right?” No. At least not yet. There were follow up neighbor visits in the home where their big dog would shed white hair on my navy-blue pants. They would come to church every once in a while. Beth and I forged a genuine friendship with them. When their daughter (now in her early 20s), encountered personal troubles, they called Beth and I for help. We met numerous times together and prayed. God worked his wonderful reconciliation. You’re thinking, “Now they became
members?” No. Not yet. But they are coming to church about six times a year.

Four years ago, my family moved to a new neighborhood, but our relationship with them continues today built on years of history: trick-or-treating, neighborly hugs and friendship. Just “liking” them personally has earned a relationship of trust that is slowly building a bridge, one timber at a time. This Christmas, another one of my “mastodon-era” prospects came to life – literally. A mother and her five children were baptized on the Nativity of our Lord. The parents asked on a recent Sunday, “How do we become members?” An inward wave of thankfulness washed over me for the eight years-worth of bridge-building: preschool morning greetings outside on the sidewalk, high-fiving little children, and countless moments of casual conversation. It’s about building relationships of trust and just genuinely liking non-member people.

Keep the “mastodons” on your prospect list. You never know when the Lord will resurrect them to spiritual life.

Rev. Donn Dobberstein

Donn Dobberstein serves as pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Port Orange, FL. He also serves as the chairman of the WELS Commission on Evangelism, and as a presenter with the WELS School of Outreach.

Full biography »