Changing the culture. The initial step is the assessment of the collective culture of your congregation. The culture can be an impediment to the efforts of those actually trying to do outreach if the congregation is not oriented to doing outreach properly. This in large part is due to misconceptions about evangelism and outreach that go back in time which are based on a “decision theology” model. Synod erred mightily in the early 70’s when they adopted a non-Lutheran strategy called Evangelism Explosion. Associated with that model are tasks associated with door to door canvassing, cold calling and being responsible for the number of people who you impact with your personal outreach efforts. This model is not based on Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit that reaps the harvest, not what man does. This model is often referred to as the “numbers game” or worse. One could say that the more recent strategy called Ablaze! was the same approach on steroids. Neither of these two models are correct, but nonetheless they are deeply ingrained in the minds of many to this very day. Click here for two real life Evangelism/Outreach stories.
Many years ago our churches adopted the polity of having an Evangelism Board/Committee, just like the Protestants did. Unfortunately, this approach also fostered the idea that evangelism was now the exclusive responsibility of the pastor and this group. Nothing could be further from the truth! This is the task of every maturing Christian. To correct the polity problem one could consider changing your bylaws to rename and refocus your corporate efforts under a Missions Board/Committee, which would include support for selected missionaries, seminary students, and your congregations local outreach efforts.
As stated on another page, it is our task to sow the seeds and do the inviting (Come and see!) in our local communities. Thus, I made the prior comment about incorporating all the membership into being involved and undertaking outreach within their individual vocations. Everyone needs to be on the same page and singing the same song, i.e., the same theology. (I am speaking here to those who don’t have the vocation or skills of a real evangelist in being able to speak the Gospel message correctly and convincingly.) The majority of us can’t be that active evangelist so we shouldn’t feel that means we have no role. We are to love our neighbors within our vocations, the Scriptural and natural way, and this needs to be understood by your congregation. Once they realize they don;t have to be that active evangelist to have a role in outreach it is like lifting a heavy burden from their minds. They might even be able to see that they too can now offer the gift of salvation freely with an invitation to all those that will listen!
My strong suggestion is that a congregational training session be held on Vocation and Evangelism/Outreach. Here, people will begin to visualize where they individually can be supportive of the tasks, like being a telephone coordinator, doing mailings, etc. See http://theclcc.org/seminars/faith-and-good-works-the-doctrine-of-vocation/ and http://theclcc.org/seminars/eoa/ for two seminars offered by CLCC, with the latter addressing Evangelism, Outreach and Affirmation.
Church Matters – Solutions also offers a 1-day conference that consists of four sessions on Vocation and Outreach called Serving Your Neighbors in Love and Mercy. Two of the four sessions are workshops. The training is PowerPoint based instruction. This is arranged for local pastor(s) to teach the sessions, or in some cases an instructor from CMS could be provided. Click here for more details. Additional training is available to congregations who have completed the 1-day conference to assist them in implementation.
Synod has now released its own vocation and outreach core module for the Everyone His Witness program that is provided free to congregations. The core module is the first phase and is a 1-day video based conference let by two facilitators. Multiple congregations can join together in the core module training. The second phase consists of Context Modules, also video based, to assist congregations in focusing their efforts in specific areas of outreach ministry. For more information visit LCMS.org/witness-outreach or email: Witness-Outreach@lcms.org.