Keep on Doing Outreach

Let me tell you about my friend Ted. When our church in Arcadia, WI was first getting started, we hosted a free community picnic. We rented the biggest shelter in town. A company donated food. Several dozen members of our mother church came to welcome the flood of guests we expected. Our summer canvassers spent a week preparing and promoting. Four people from the community came. Two couples. Seemed like a waste.

When I followed up on one gentleman who came, he introduced me to his next door neighbor Ted. Ted was interested in our church. Ted started coming. Ted has developmental disabilities, so we walked through the Bible studies orally. It was fun. Ted was actually our first adult confirmand in Arcadia. But after a while, for a number of reasons, Ted stopped coming to our church. Seemed like a waste again.

So often, our outreach efforts seem in vain, so we stop reaching out. That canvass didn’t get any members. Never doing that again. Those prospects haven’t been back to church for months. No point in following up.

But then Jesus worked a miracle. After several years, Ted called up. He asked if he could come back to our church. “Of course!” He asked, “Can my friend Jon come along?” “Of course!”

Jon took adult instruction classes and was confirmed. Ted and Jon brought another friend, Mike and then another friend Dan and another friend Teresa. Teresa can hardly speak, but it was clear she enjoyed coming to church and longed to receive the Lord’s Supper. After instructing Teresa, she was confirmed as well. Five friends, all living in the same apartment building, all from the witness of friends. And that doesn’t count Amy the social worker and her daughter and fiancee who started coming to church and were confirmed because, in Amy’s own words, “Ted wouldn’t stop inviting me!” So that’s eight precious souls from one person witnessing.

Too often we see outreach as a vending machine. We expect to put a little in and get something back right away. “How many people came to church waving that postcard we mailed out?” “How many new members has our preschool brought in?” Instead, isn’t outreach more like a slot machine? People will stand at a slot machine for hours, just waiting to hit the jackpot. People who have won a jackpot will talk about it for years. When it comes to outreach, every soul is a jackpot. Was that picnic ten years ago worth it? Absolutely. We met Ted and his soul is the jackpot. Then we hit the jackpot again and again and again and again. Keep on doing outreach!

Rev. Nathan Strutz

Nathan Strutz serves as pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Verona, WI. He serves the WELS as chairman of the Western Wisconsin District Mission Board.

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