ENGAGE AND PROCLAIM
With a heart full of praise, believers in Christ proclaim to the world what he has already done for us. It's not just God's commission to be his messengers, it becomes a privilege and a joy to be used by God and unleash the power of his Word to all people.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries, a WELS-affiliated gospel ministry, partners with congregations to train members to confidently proclaim the gospel. Personal evangelism is often scary and intimidating for most Christians. Our outreach initiatives emphasize that evangelism is
- Far more about God's ability working through us than our abilities working for God.
- Far more about trusting God's promises and assurances than about trusting ourselves.
- Far more about God working through his Word rather than our own words.
To help overcome common fears, a major component of our outreach initiatives is to immediately provide a well-organized opportunity for members to put their training into action by going out door-to-door to proclaim the gospel. We don't teach members how to canvass, but we use canvassing to train people how to confidently proclaim the gospel.
Our methodology and approach include utilizing common media tools to engage people. The media could take many forms. For our initiatives, we use postcards to train people how to comfortably begin a conversation and seamlessly transition to sharing a brief gospel message.
The evangelism strategy of verbally proclaiming the gospel to the lost has not changed since the first century Christian church. God not only uses the words proclaimed, but sharing the gospel also becomes one of the greatest exercises of our faith. People are transformed. Faith lives are changed. This helps create a new dynamic that can infect a congregation to be more mission-minded.
Even though personal evangelism has not changed, the advance of today's technology is dramatically shifting outreach strategies. With the advent of new technology, our society is dramatically changing as well. Without addressing these changes, many congregations are struggling today to gain traction in their outreach strategies.
The changes in the religious landscape are well documented.
The number of unchurched is increasing. A generation of youth who grew up in church is not returning to church. Worship attendance is decreasing. Going to church is no longer a societal norm. When absolute truth is no longer absolute, people feel free to define God however they want — worship him wherever they want — and the message of the cross no longer becomes relevant in people's lives.
The sad truth is that more people are no longer coming to church on a Sunday morning to find answers.
A new gauge is required to define outreach success, and that is dramatically effecting strategies to communicate the gospel with the unchurched.
Worship attendance is an accurate gauge that reflects the spiritual health of a congregation, but attendance to church-sponsored events is not necessarily an accurate gauge that reflects the outreach health of a congregation. Events that focus on drawing children and young families to come to church are struggling to gain traction, because young unchurched families are not coming back.
When attendance numbers don't match expectations, the seeds of frustration and disappointment can blossom to outreach discouragement. And that can turn to fruits of inactivity.
Praise and Proclaim assists congregations by helping them employ "Engage" strategies in their evangelism efforts.
Attract Strategies: "Come" to an event and eventually unchurched persons may become engaged.
Engage Strategies: "Engage" unchurched persons in the community and eventually they may come.
We help congregations discover that Jesus is right: the fields are ready to be sowed — the harvest is ready — and the workers are few.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries is helping enhance a congregation's gospel ministry by training people how to go out into the community to engage people and plant seeds of God's Word. After launching thirty-four outreach initiatives in eighteen states the past two and a half years, we are helping congregations discover that, despite today's technology,
- people are more receptive to hear the gospel than we think.
- people are lonely, feeling isolated, and looking for connection.
- people are stressed and tired of a busy lifestyle and looking for meaning and purpose.
- people are looking for certain answers during these uncertain times.
The challenge is that people today may not be as willing to come to church on a Sunday morning, but they are willing to be personally engaged to take a journey to find Christ through his Word. The challenge is that people today may not be attracted to come and seek truth at church, but they are willing to be personally engaged and be introduced to Christ through his Word.
Instead of relying on organized religion, people today want to hear directly from trusted friends the reason for the hope they have in Christ. In one study, four out of five unchurched are willing to hear a short gospel message from a friend because they know and see that faith is important to them. Our outreach initiatives are designed to help members do that.
Engaging people with the intent of verbally proclaiming the gospel is becoming the most accurate gauge in defining success in evangelism.
Instead of abandoning "attract" events and solely focusing on "engage" strategies, perhaps there ought to be a better balance between them.
What could that look like?
Launch a service project with the goal of being gospel intentional. Invite unchurched families to participate. Approach families who have already come to worship or have participated in an event held at church. While serving together, a member can share what their church teaches and give a reason for the hope they have in Christ. The seeds of God's Word are sown and its power unleashed.
Invest time and energy to aggressively invite and attract unchurched families to come to an event at church that is specifically geared for the entire unchurched family. Use a multi-level advertising campaign that is cost effective. In addition to postcards, utilize today's technology by including Google Ads, Facebook ads, local advertising, and highlight the event on the main page of your website.
One of the most powerful ways to engage people is to employ loving and aggressive follow-up strategies.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries recommends that church evangelism committees ought to invest 50% of their time in launching events to reach out to people for the first time. The remaining 50% of their time ought to be invested in connecting with unchurched families whom the Lord has already brought to their church. These are first-time visitors or prospects with children who already attend their school, preschool, or a children's program hosted by the congregation.
We remember that unbelievers come to church for the wrong reasons. If you think it's scary going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel, think how scary it is for unbelievers to walk through a church door on Sunday morning — especially if they don't know anybody. It's frustrating and disheartening for the congregation when they don't see a promising young family return again. Don't feel alone. Studies show that only one out of ten first-time guests will return to church a second time. Therefore, it is essential for a congregation to go out of their way to make them feel valued and welcome during their first visit and afterwards.
Unchurched families come to church for a variety of reasons. They do not have gospel-motivated intentions to come and hear the gospel. They need loving, respectful, and persistent reminders and coaxing to come back for a second visit. If they provide contact information, they have invited a church and given a permission to connect with them and start a relationship. They will be expecting you to follow through with a personal contact. If not, they will wonder if the church didn't like them and not want them to come back. They will appreciate the reminders and will let you know if they are no longer interested.
Congregations need to be reminded that young families communicate far differently than retirees. Today's preferred technology insists upon text-message reminders and invitations in conjunction with email and regular mail.
It's okay to be aggressive in trying to build a bridge with first-time visitors and unchurched families connected with your church and school. It's okay to be a good shepherd that desperately searches for lost sheep or be the woman that frantically searches for a lost coin. Congregations can trust that the Lord is working on the hearts of souls who have come to your church.
Personal evangelism is a powerful way to spread the gospel in today's world. When congregations shift their focus on bringing as many people as possible to heaven through the proclamation of his Word, they become mission-minded.
It is the business of the church to spread the gospel. It is God's business to bring lost souls to faith. Start employing engage strategies and use the number of gospel seeds planted as a gauge for evangelism success.
It celebrates the activity, not the results.
Its trusts the power of God's Word and not our abilities for results.
It helps capture and sustain outreach momentum by placing the business of rescuing lost souls entirely into God's hands.
It helps mind our own business and trusts that God is working through his Word.
The time is right for Christians to step out in faith and verbally share what Christ has already done for us. Believers can trust Christ's promise that the fields are ready, to personally spread the Good News and unleash its power to the world around us.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries partners with congregations to enhance their gospel ministry by providing evangelism and follow-up training. Go to www.praiseandproclaim.com for more information and reports from previous outreach initiatives.
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I appreciated the idea of getting members involved. You said, “a major component of our outreach initiatives is to immediately provide a well organized opportunity for members to put their training into action”. This is a great thing because we want our members to actively live and share their faith and this helps that process. A lot of people want to share the gospel, but they aren’t sure how. This is a great opportunity to make them feel more comfortable and make it easier for them to share in the future.
I think that these organized events are a great way to get people involved, but make sure people don’t get the impression that it has to be organized. The members should know that they can share whenever and however they like. Spontaneous sharing of the gospel is something that can be overlooked. This could happen at work or anywhere. Emphasize the effect that even a little bit of gospel could have.
The first contact with an unbeliever is important, but it can’t do it all. I like what you said, “One of the most powerful ways to engage people is to employ loving and aggressive follow-up strategies”. I was just curious as to what some of these strategies would look like. How would you find a way to keep contact with them?
Thank you for your contribution to the conference!
I agree with you. The best form of evangelism is proclaiming the gospel to people within our personal network. We just need many more of our faithful members to do that. After an organized effort when the main purpose is to overcome fear, believers can feel even more confident to connect with people privately. That is what we are discovering.
Our training components also include training people how to overcome the fear of making follow-up visits. One of the biggest obstacles is having people understand that when people give you their contact information -- they are giving you permission to build a relationship. Too often, congregations struggle to do that. This doesn't have to be a face-to-face visit, but ongoing personal connections via emails and texts. As you probably know -- most younger folks and parents of young families prefer to connect through their phones. If that is so, then let's use that as a means to communicate with them. I know that sounds simple -- but powerful. That would be my definition of "aggressive follow up."
I appreciate your thoughts and like the way praise and proclaim provides for those who are new to canvassing the ability to talk about the Gospel message. I am wondering if you have any thoughts on the use of SnapChat as a way to communicate with the millennial generation? I ask as this came up in a class I am taking and am not aware of any church using this method.