“Friendship Ablaze!” — what’s being described as “the most comprehensive package of user-friendly resources ever developed in our Synod to help congregations and schools be the best welcoming communities they can be, as they share the Gospel with their neighbors”– is now available for purchase in hard-copy version or cost-free from the Web.
Rev. Larry Reinhardt, director of Outreach and Stewardship Ministry for LCMS District and Congregational Services, made that comment to Reporter as work on both versions wrapped up in August.
The Synod’s outreach-ministry office and the Center for U.S. Missions, based at Irvine, Calif., teamed up for what he calls the “cooperative effort” to update existing resources and develop new ones for the project that supports the Synod’s Ablaze! initiative.
Reinhardt pointed out that other “unique and exciting” features of the new “Friendship Ablaze!” include “friendship-celebration worship-service ideas and Bible studies that can be used at any time of the year, and for years to come. It has a much longer life than other friendship-celebration resources we’ve offered in the past.”
“These resources were created to diminish the typical blockages to effective, natural, relational witnessing by both individual Christians and congregations,” said Rev. Michael Ruhl, the Irvine mission center’s executive director, who coordinated the project with Reinhardt. “We are convinced they will bring encouragement, along with practical helps and ideas, to expand joyful, relational, and comprehensive obedience to the Great Commission.”
Ruhl said the Center for U.S. Missions is the domestic “mission-training arm of the Synod, preparing missionaries and church planters for outreach in North America and providing resources to help districts and congregations mobilize for Ablaze!“
He described friendship-celebration events as “a congregation’s planned activities that prepare members to meet and make friends with unchurched residents of their community and that equip the congregation to invite and engage the community in winsome friendship and fellowship with them.”
Ablaze! is LCMS World Mission’s initiative to share the Gospel with 100 million unreached or uncommitted people — 50 million in the United States — by 2017.
Developed by a team of seven LCMS outreach specialists, all the material may be downloaded free from the Web at http://friendshipablaze.com, or a hard-copy version is available for $40 in a three-ring binder. Order the paper version from the Web site; write the Center for U.S. Missions at 1530 Concordia West, Irvine, CA 92612; call (949) 854-8002, Ext. 1780; or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each team member worked on one of the resource’s chapters, subtitled “Planning Guide,” “Worship,” “Bible Studies,” “Prayer,” “Assimilation,” “Schools,” and “Other Resources.”
Karen Kogler — also a member of the Center for U.S. Missions staff — served as editor for the project. “The fact that these materials are on a Web site not only makes them immediately available,” she told Reporter, “but allows for interaction among users.”
Kogler explained that there is a “user-discussion” button on every page of the Web resource, taking the viewer to a moderated discussion forum — one for each of the seven sections, where “users can post comments … and read the comments of other users.”
She also said that “various documents” are available to users from the downloads library, including PowerPoint presentations, Publisher and Word documents that can be cutomized for congregations, and “printer-friendly versions of every page.”
A Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation grant funded development of “Friendship Ablaze!“
Posted Sept. 6, 2005