Aren't You Glad He Knocked?

Outreach calls are just not in my comfort zone.” That statement is something either thought or even spoken by all of us as pastors from time to time. And you know what? It is uncomfortable! Every time you go to an unchurched person’s door, a battle is waged against Satan. Suddenly one of his own number is being threatened and you can bet that he’ll fight to protect his own! Outreach calls are not easy because Satan is attacking on two fronts - against the heart of the person you are talking to as well as against yours. He makes the call “uncomfortable.” But it is vital to fight the battle! The souls of those you visit will be glad you did!

No soldier gets to say, “War is not in my comfort zone, therefore I’m not going to fight.” Though not comfortable, aren’t you glad the soldier fought to defend you, your family and your country? No doctor particularly loves to split open a fellow human being’s head and do brain surgery or cut into someone’s chest cavity and perform heart surgery. But wouldn’t you be glad the doctor was willing to do it if it was your life on the line? We are thankful that people are willing to go outside their comfort zone to save lives. How much more vital is it when an eternal soul is on the line?

It was getting late. I had been on some rough outreach calls welcoming new movers to our town that night. I was just about to call it night even though I had time for at least one more. The next person on the list was only a block away. I would have felt guilty if I drove past their house without stopping (Satan was working hard that night!). I went up to the door half hoping no one was home. A very pregnant young woman answered the door. Within minutes I learned that she had no church background, had never been baptized and was expecting triplets! It would have been easier just to give her the pamphlet and say, “Keep us in mind!” Instead, I spoke the uncomfortable thing: “Can I tell you about the awesome gifts God gives us in baptism?”

Long story short, she and her husband came through the Bible Information Class, the triplets were baptized, and God was working as we studied his Word together. The husband commented, “I never knew any of this. This is amazing!”

It wasn’t comfortable, but I’m glad I knocked on that door - as much for their sake as mine. Proclaiming God’s Word isn’t always comfortable, but then it’s not you or me that blesses it - God does. In the war on Satan, God is at our side and as someone once said, “God and I make a majority!” In heaven, God could very well say to countless people, “Aren’t you glad I sent Pastor to go and knock on your door?” What a privilege to be one of those knockers!

Rev. David Scharf

David Scharf serves as pastor of Immanuel Lutheran in Greenville, WI. Pastor Scharf also serves as a member of the WELS Commission for Congregational Counseling.

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When Outreach Stinks

At Faith, Sharpsburg, GA, we send out mass mailings to our target area numerous times per year. The postcards are always tied to a “come event” that invites our community to join us for worship. Over the years this has led to many visitors and many new members of the body of Christ.

Over the years, however, it’s had another effect as well. Certain people in our community really don’t want to hear from a church. I found the postcard pictured above put into the door of our church building. I don’t know if the person got it by mail or doorhanger (we did 10,000 of the former and 1800 of the latter) but there was no doubt that they didn’t want it. They wrote “Keep it” across its face.

Think of all the effort that went into taking the postcard, writing a note on it, and then driving to my church, and sticking it in the front door. The person undoubtedly planned their trip to be when no one was there. I couldn’t believe how much forethought and effort they went through. I mean, I usually forget to pick up milk and eggs when I am told to do it three times!

Can you imagine doing this with the coupon that the local Papa Johns sends you in the mail? “I don’t want your pizza, so I drove to your restaurant and to give it back to you with a nasty note!” No one would do that over pizza. But over church? Absolutely. Because deep down, that person knew that the Church is very different from a pizza joint. Deep down he knew and reacted to the message of Christ crucified. The word was efficacious—but it hardened instead of healed.

Sometimes doing the work of outreach and inviting people to worship just plain stinks.

This, however, is exactly what God told us to expect. Preaching the gospel will always stink: as we take the message Christ out to an unbelieving world, Paul said that we smell with the aroma of Christ and no one reacts ambivalently.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 2 Corinthians 2:15ff.

Even though my postcard didn’t bring that man into church that Sunday, it still did the smelly work of God. Unfortunately for that man, we were the smell of death. But that doesn’t mean we should ever stop doing that smelly work. Sometimes our outreach efforts play the part of the Old Testament prophets or the New Testament disciples who had to wipe the dust from their sandals. Reactions like this, should only serve to highlight how important our outreach work is! Jesus is either the most important thing the world or the least important thing. The one thing he cannot be is moderately important (C. S. Lewis).

When I pulled the card from the door, I went into my study and prayed for that man. I prayed that he might be given the grace to live until the Church had a chance to call him by the Spirit. I prayed that one day, he would smell us as the fragrance of life.

Don’t let negative reactions slow down your outreach work—outreach is supposed to stink. Just be the aroma of Christ to everyone around you!

Rev. Jonathan E. Schroeder

Jonathan Schroeder is the pastor of Faith Lutheran in Sharpsburg, GA. He serves as the Moderator of the Institute of Worship and Outreach, pastor-at-large on the Synodical Council, and is actively involved in WELS School of Outreach and WELS School of Worship.

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