By Paula Schlueter Ross
The United States is the third-largest “mission field” in the world, right behind China and India, as far as countries with the largest percentages of “unchurched” populations, says the Rev. Al Tormoehlen, director of “The 72 — Partners on the Road.”
That means that every LCMS congregation needs to examine its outreach efforts, he says, and determine if it’s doing all it can to reach others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If there’s room for improvement, Tormoehlen offers a solution: contact “The 72 — Partners on the Road,” the synodwide program of the LCMS Office of National Mission that works to equip congregations for outreach in their communities.
Although it’s now in its 15th year (early on, it was known as “Harvesters for Christ”), “The 72” has been working since 2008 to expand its focus to include working cooperatively with districts, establishing district partnerships whose staffs can serve as liaisons between the Synod’s national mission office and their own congregations.
District field representatives for “The 72” “really know their district and can be a voice for us,” says Tormoehlen, which “makes possible a great opportunity to partner with more congregations to equip their members for reaching out in their communities.”
Tormoehlen stresses the “partnership” aspect of “The 72” — “We’re not coming in to do the work, but we’re equipping LCMS members to do the work.”
As of January, four more LCMS districts — Central Illinois, Nebraska, Rocky Mountain and South Wisconsin — will have established partnerships with “The 72,” bringing the total to 17 of the Synod’s 35 districts. The others are Florida-Georgia, Minnesota South, Southeastern, Southern, Pacific Southwest, Minnesota North, English, New England, Iowa West, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas and Texas.
Tormoehlen says he would like for the program to have partnerships with every district, and notes that teams from “The 72” already have served congregations in all 35.
The Rev. John C. Wille, president of the South Wisconsin District, a new partner with the ministry, describes those who serve “The 72” as being “passionate about helping others reawaken the enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus with congregations that perhaps have forgotten how.”
Of the district’s 214 congregations, “probably most would benefit in some way from having ‘The 72’ in their congregation,” Wille told Reporter. “The problem from my perspective is that, while we have talked evangelism and outreach for decades, it is something that we expect a committee to do. Actually, however, it is part of what every Christian is called to do.”
Said Wille: “If God loved the world so that He gave up His Son, how much are we to love the world? If God loved the world so that He was moved to sacrifice His Son, what should God’s love move us to do?”
The ministry takes its name 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.”
“The 72” sends teams of two to four people to serve “on location” at a congregation for several weeks or weekends, for the purpose of equipping members for effective outreach, including how to:
- express their faith comfortably in daily conversation.
- establish effective outreach-ministry goals.
- organize publicity and promote events within the local community.
- welcome and include guests into the worship and life of the congregation.
- organize a telephone-based ministry.
- develop a framework for small-group ministry.
- establish a strategy to connect with inactive members.
The partnering congregation covers the cost of the team’s housing, transportation, meals and supplies, as well as application and service fees.
Tormoehlen says the ministry isn’t just for those congregations that have no evangelism program. It’s also for any congregation that wants to “revitalize, enhance or expand” its existing outreach efforts.
Congregations equipped for outreach through “The 72” typically experience increases in worship attendance and the number of baptized and confirmed members, according to Tormoehlen.
And a whopping 98 percent of the 225 congregations served to date say they would recommend “The 72” to others.
The Rev. Doug Kallesen, executive director of mission and outreach with the Florida-Georgia District — one of the first districts to establish a partnership with “The 72” — says the program has helped more than two dozen district congregations.
The beauty of “The 72,” Kallesen says, is that congregations can choose which training modules they want to focus on — welcoming guests, publicizing the church, starting a telephone ministry, or whatever is most needed. “It personalizes the training in a very, very cost-effective manner,” he said.
Perhaps the best thing is that some of the training is provided by laypeople, who address evangelism “in a very down-to-earth sort of way,” he added, allowing laypeople in the congregation to gain “an insight into sharing their faith through a trainer who is a layperson as well.”
Mick Hurst and his wife, Lori, members of Light of the Valley Lutheran Church in Valley Center, Calif., joined “The 72” as trainers last August. They’re now part of the team that will be working with Light of the Valley through May.
” ‘The 72 — Partners on the Road’ can bring to any LCMS church looking to begin, renew or expand their Gospel outreach into their community, a fresh and vibrant process of training that reaches into all areas of the church’s ministries,” Mick Hurst told Reporter via email.
“Once ‘The 72’ has partnered with a church, that church will have not only a renewed zeal for outreach, but also the tools that will help the church to be effective,” he said.
For more information about “The 72 — Partners on the Road,” contact Tormoehlen at 800-248-1930, Ext. 1287, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted Dec. 28, 2011