by Melanie Ave
When most people hear “mission field,” their minds typically go to far-flung places with exotic cultures and foreign tongues.
But the mission field is often in the neighborhood, sometimes right down the street, said the Rev. Al Tormoehlen, director of The 72 — Partners on the Road, one element of the growing LCMS Witness and Outreach Ministry.
The United States has the thirdlargest unchurched population, behind China and India. That means every LCMS congregation, Tormoehlen said, has an amazing opportunity to reach others with the Gospel.
“It’s vitally important today that we get churches in our country excited about the mission field all around them,” he said.
LCMS Witness and Outreach Ministry partners with LCMS districts throughout the country and provides resources to help congregations reach others with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The 72 uses field representatives from LCMS districts that contact interested congregations or those recommended by district presidents or mission executives.
Teams of The 72, made up of two to four people, help train members of congregations to reach out to people in their communities and to involve them in the life of the church. The training helps congregations establish effective outreach ministry goals; organize publicity and promotional events; welcome and include guests into the worship and life of the congregation; organize a telephone-based ministry; develop a framework for small-group ministry; and establish a strategy to connect with inactive members.
“It’s vitally important today that we get churches in our country excited about the mission field all around them.”
As a field representative for the LCMS Pacific Southwest District, Al Axelson and his wife have traveled more than 33,000 miles to offer workshops that help congregations “realize that every member is already in outreach,” Axelson said.
When people go out to lunch after church and talk about the Volunteers with The 72 mark Bibles for distribution. sermon, they’re witnessing to the people who can hear them, he said. When visitors come to church, every member is a potential contact for the guests.
The 72, formerly known as “Harvesters for Christ,” began in 1996. The ministry’s name comes from Luke 10:1-2, where Jesus appoints “seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go,” and telling them, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
To date, The 72 has partnership agreements with 21 of the 35 districts and has provided training to more than 200 congregations. Tormoehlen said his goal is to increase the number of agreements to 30 districts within the next year.
“A lot of churches have signs at their exits that say, ‘You are now entering the mission field,’” Tormoehlen said. “That’s what we need to do, help our congregations move into the mission fields and reach people for Christ.”
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