I was about 14 years old. It was a typical Saturday afternoon. I was getting ready. My family and I were heading to church, where we would meet a group of young and older adults prepared to evangelize the neighborhood surrounding the church. Many years ago, this was in Panama City, where my dad was a pastor.
I remember talking with people of different ages and praying for them on their front porches. I was 14! But my mom and dad had taught me that was the normal thing to do as Christians.
It’s been a long time since I was 14, and witnessing got more complicated. I noticed that my new home, Texas, culture was different when I moved from Panama at 18. The only people knocking on doors were from other “religions” or salespeople. So, my dad adapted his witnessing efforts to our new community in its context. He started an ESL (English as a Second Language) program at the church. I was one of the volunteers, and I loved it! It took me some time to get the hang of it, but I found sharing Jesus with unchurched people in their context fascinating. Scary at first but fascinating.
I then married a pastor, and guess what? Witnessing (or evangelizing) was (is) a passion for him too. So, seeing the communities we have served for over 20 years with health fairs, ESL classes, food pantries, Christmas events, Back to School blessings, etc, has been the most joyous blessing.
Evangelizing or witnessing can be intimidating sometimes. Ten years ago, the LCMS designated a Task Force which recommended:
“that a significant emphasis in lay training programs be placed on the role of evangelist and the task of outreach in the increasingly diverse and challenging world of the U.S. (Recommendation 7 Retention and Affirmation of District Lay Training Programs)
…The focus of this training… ought not to be on training lay people to do pastoral work… Rather, a more important focus should be helping all the baptized evangelize—witnessing to Christ and sharing the Christian faith within their vocation.
Though we charge pastors in the rite of ordination to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5), the best evangelists are often lay people gifted and hopefully trained to tell the good news of Jesus wherever their vocations take them. Evangelists or witnesses from all walks of life are essential for reaching the lost and for the church to grow… Lay evangelists… can go far more places to bring the Word of Jesus to far more people.
We… need lay evangelists… who can teach others the Word of God within their vocation… baptized people of God who speak of the good news of Jesus at every opportunity God gives them in their discipline… Equipping the baptized people of God to fulfill their vocation as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9) is an essential need that district lay training programs can help to address.
Witnessing can be intimidating sometimes. It may take some time to get the hang of it, but sharing Jesus with unchurched people in their context is fascinating! Scary at first, but fascinating!
Would you join our newly developed Evangelist Training ministry and become a certified Evangelist (witness) of the Texas District?
For more information, go to https://txlcms.org/lay-evangelist-training/
By Deaconess Noemí Guerra
Districtwide Evangelist Development Leader