HOUSTON – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Ablaze! initiative is “reminiscent of what happened when John the Baptist introduced one of his followers, Andrew, to Jesus,” Kermit “Butch” Almstedt, chairman of the Board for Mission Services, told the 63rd Regular Convention July 15.
“Andrew then introduced his brother, Peter, to Jesus. Following that, John the Baptist introduced Philip to Jesus, and Philip introduced Nathaniel to Jesus,” Almstedt continued. “One-on-one witnessing has been going on since the time of our Lord.”
Like early evangelism efforts, Ablaze! is “about fulfilling God’s Word to witness one’s faith and to disciple the nations, so that many more may have life in Jesus Christ,” Almstedt said.
The Ablaze! effort was endorsed by the 2004 LCMS convention. It has a goal to share the Gospel with 100 million people worldwide by 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The LCMS has invited its 30 partner churches in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eurasia to take part in Ablaze! and has set up a Web-based “counter” at www.lcms.org/ablaze to track the effort’s progress and share witnessing ideas.
In their joint report to the convention, Almstedt and Dr. Robert Roegner, executive director of the mission board, provided an update on Ablaze! Among the information they shared:
• 32 of the Synod’s 35 districts have registered as “Ablaze! partners” to support the effort’s goals. In addition to reaching 100 million people with the Gospel, those goals include starting 2,000 congregations in North America and “revitalizing” the mission efforts of 2,000 existing congregations that have static or declining memberships;
• 571 congregations also have declared themselves to be partners in the effort; and
• about 1,000 congregations have downloaded the Ablaze! logo from the Web site and have indicated they are “doing something around Ablaze! – from holding a special worship service, to some event like Friendship Sunday, to Bible study or outreach training,” said Roegner;
As of July 15, Roegner said, “the number of unreached or uncommitted people with whom the Gospel has been shared and reported to us is 5,267,615.”
“This is just a start,” he said. “We expect those numbers to increase exponentially in the coming years, as more and more people join the movement, and as more and more people hear the Good News of Jesus.”
Roegner said a number of free resources are available on the Ablaze! Web site to help Lutherans reach out with the Gospel. The effort, he said, is “about challenging [Lutherans] – especially the laity – to be passionate about witnessing to lost souls for Christ.”
A number of one-minute video vignettes called “Ablaze! Moments” are being shown throughout the convention. The videos feature LCMS members describing how they shared their faith and made a difference in the lives of others.
Worldwide, LCMS World Mission last year sponsored four regional Ablaze! summits with partner-church leaders in England, Kenya, Bolivia, and China, Roegner said. He added that 26 partner-church leaders are expected to attend an international Ablaze! summit following the Synod’s convention in Houston.
“They are coming to discuss ways that they can move the Ablaze! vision forward in their churches and countries,” he said.
“One Message – Christ! His Love is Here for You!” is the theme of the triennial convention, which meets through July 19.