Training Christians for Outreach

The second in a series of articles by Chuck Westra about Creating a Mission Mindset in your congregation

Read the first article in the series here.

This past month, one of the founding members of our congregation died. He knew for several weeks that his physical death was near at hand. He had been battling cancer for some time. In the last weeks of his life he turned nearly every conversation to spiritual matters. I was blessed to be privy to some of those conversations. He would start out like this: “I know that I am going to be in heaven very soon. I would like to talk about you…” He would then proceed to share law and gospel with his captive audience.

My first reaction was to thank God for the Spirit worked faith that lived in his heart. I also thanked God for the Spirit worked zeal that drove him to seize this unique opportunity for sharing the life giving power of the gospel. A nostalgic walk down memory lane was inevitable. It was an emotional journey as I remembered our 22 year partnership in gospel ministry.

During that partnership in the gospel our member had been involved in considerable training in our congregational classes and seminars. We all know that his real training was through the Spirit’s work in the means of grace. But perhaps he had been helped and strengthened by an intentional plan to apply those means of grace in the plan to train our members for a life of witness to the gospel.

I share just a few very simple and basic components to a congregational plan for training God’s people for works of service in the realm of personal and congregational outreach. We have made it our practice in most years to offer 2 training seminars. The first occurrs in early Spring. It is a canvass training opportunity. We require it for confirmation students (law??) and use it as an opportunity to recruit new people for our summer canvass. The basics of canvassing are covered.

In the fall we often offer a second seminar. It is intended to be a second tier opportunity and focuses on training members to be involved in follow up surveys and doing law/gospel presentations.

In addition, we try to plan 2-3 weeks of study in our Sunday morning curriculum to provide a focus on our lives as witnesses to the gospel. I have used that venue on numerous occasions to provide training for law/ gospel witness.

In less formal ways, I have used “real life” examples in sermons and in Bible classes. It seems helpful to offer the members of a church the opportunity to see the proclamation of the gospel in their midst.

Utimately, we know that the work is the Lord’s. He works through his means to empower witnesses for his work. It does seem wise to me that we are intentional in applying those means to training our members for witness. I pray that God bless our efforts in reaching more with the life breathing gospel.

Rev. Charles Westra

Charles Westra serves as pastor of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Columbia, TN. In addition to his congregational duties, Pastor Westra serves as the chairman for the WELS Board for Home Missions.

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