PLI – Ministry Moments – January 2017

PLI Ministry Moments

We are continuing with our biweekly “huddles” with our group from Florida. Our leaders are from Wisconsin and pretty much everyone else is from Florida except us. The guys have their call in the morning and the wives/women meet in the evening. We encourage one another and discuss our success and things that don’t succeed. They are an amazing support for us as we continue to learn how to be missional in our ministry. We also are enjoying our local Community group that meets. This group is made up of members of St. Peter’s, Grace, and Memory Day by Day, as well as two from Zion. We meet to support each other in being missional and reaching the unchurched in our area. It is a wonderful group of people and we thank God for each and every one of them and the insight and willingness to serve they each bring.

We are enjoying using techniques and new ways of reaching people for Christ. We are in touch with so many people on a daily basis and learning to greet them with a smile, and hello is an opportunity to make a new friend. We will not be able to reach everyone, but one is a victory for Christ. They may not attend our church, but maybe they will begin to see that we are their friends and that will be an opportunity to lead them to attend a Christian church somewhere.

I’ve said before that we need to find new ways of reaching people. In our society today people don’t think they need church or God, mostly because they don’t know what we are about. We can’t expect them to “fit our mold” or “fit into our way of life” unless and until they understand we are their friends. This concept can be frustrating to some of us. We grew up in a churched society. We never thought about going to church, we went to church because it was what we were used to. Today’s people, for whatever reason have not been exposed to church; they’ve fallen away from church. The way we have been trying to encourage them to come to church, by asking them to come, is obviously not working. It hasn’t been working for some time. If it were working our churches would all be full and our society would be a churched society once again. We need to try the “old” method of meeting people and being their friends first, the way Jesus did. He went to them, He talked with them, He listened to them. We need to show them we care about them, the way Jesus cared about the people He met. Letting them know we don’t want to judge them, we just want to love them. We don’t want to cram it down their throats, that won’t work and it will only allow them to resent us more.

When I was a teenager, I had to eat a chocolate bar every day to bring my blood sugar up. As a result, I really don’t like chocolate, I don’t like the smell, and I really don’t like the taste. Although they were doing what was good for me, by forcing me to eat that chocolate every day mid morning the smell and memory of, especially Hershey’s bars is repulsive to me. We don’t want coming to church to be something that they are repulsed by. Once we become friends with them, we can introduce them to Christ in a way that they can see His love through us.

We won’t get everyone we meet to come to church and it may take a good deal of “loving” them where they are to get them to even consider walking through our doors, but as I said, the way we’ve “always done it” hasn’t worked in a long time and our churches are still empty. Maybe with God’s help we can find and initiate the “old” way of reaching the people He places in our lives, the way Jesus would do it. We need to earn their trust and receive permission to share our faith. God is patient with us, can we be patient with others, and care about them and be friends with them. Show them the Love of God, the God who sent HIS Son to save not just you and me, but all people. That is God’s desire that is what we are and will continue to be working toward.

PLI – Ministry Moments – December 2016

PLI Ministry MomentsWe have been enjoying our group “huddles” every other week and we had our first Community Group meeting in November, with members from St. Peter’s, Grace, Zion, as well as others not affiliated with the Lutheran Church.  All have something to offer and share with us. This truly is a blessing to hear what others are doing with their congregations and neighbors. We hear about successes, not so successful endeavors and we are learning a lot about how long it takes to have a successful Missional Ministry.  One of the most important lessons I am learning is that God doesn’t give up on us, so why should we give up? When we are weak, He is strong. We MUST trust and have faith in God who can do anything. He can and does use each and every one of us to accomplish HIS goal.

The question I have to ask myself every day is, am I willing to let God use me? There are some days I think to myself, “this is impossible, I’m not strong enough, I’m too tired, I just don’t know what to do”. All these doubts and fears come from Satan, not God. God is there ready to support and help me get past my doubts and my weakness. Satan is there ready and willing, more than willing to fuel my doubts. I need to daily, sometimes hourly remind myself, that I can do all things with God, and that God is bigger than Satan!

So what are things we can do? The ideas are limitless, do we have the “man power” to pull them off? A better question is do we have the “God power” to pull them off? The answer is YES, God will provide the power, we have to be willing to do our part. Is this going to happen over night? Probably not, but I am not willing to give up.

What we need, that everyone can give us, no matter how frail, or tired you may be, is your prayer and support. There are many activities and programs that we can start, we will need help.  For those of you who can’t help, we need your prayers to find the people power to pull them off. We will need to use the facilities, we will need your support and approval to use them. Some ideas that have been shared and that we have had are: starting up a singles ministry, continue to expand and grow the basketball program in place, do our Fall-o-ween Jesus event again, a cooking program – this is something that could be for kids or adults who would like to learn to cook, after school reading program, gardening class for children and adults. There are many more, and if you have ideas of something that can be done, please share that information with me. Finding people who are willing to lead or help with the labor is another thing you can pray for. We can ask other congregations for their help. If they are willing to take time away from their own congregations, great, otherwise we need to be praying for willing people to help out. The one thing we can’t do if we expect to succeed is “Give Up”! We can’t give up if we expect to be successful. Programs can be dreamed up, but one person cannot pull it off alone. Growing the Church is a team effort, it takes prayer and commitment of all the members. To God be the Glory and success.

PLI – Ministry Moments – November 2016

PLI Ministry MomentsIt has been about 3 weeks since we had the amazing experience of going to our first PLI encounter. It was an experience we are very excited about and are working very hard to implement. There are so many aspects of this program and being impatient we would like to see it all happen at one time. However we are constantly reminded that God is in control and the incredible revelation for us is that we see HIM at work in our lives and the lives of the people around us.

While we were in Florida, He used us and the time spent there to impact our lives and learn more about the ministry plan He has for us. We are certain we are to reach people for God, we are sure we are to go out there and meet, greet and get to know God’s people.

It can seem like a daunting task when you first hear you are to go out and reach people, not invite them to come to you, but to GO to them. Complete strangers! The other concept that is a bit out of our “comfort” zone is to LISTEN to them. At times we get so caught up in the idea of telling others about Jesus, about telling people what they are missing out on by not following Jesus that we forget to listen to what they have to say or what is going on in their lives, their needs.

In the past few weeks I have learned that there are stories out there, there are reasons that people don’t go to church, there are people out there that just want a friend and nothing more. The most fascinating thing is that when I listen to them and are their friend they want to know more about me, and what I believe.

As an example, I was at an event recently and met a delightful woman. She has a personality that is so bubbly and wonderful and we had a wonderful conversation. During our time together, she asked me what I do and what my husband does. I told her my husband is a “Pastor” and that I am a church secretary. She stated, “ I’m not religious at all, I was raised Catholic, so ‘It’ is in me, but I don’t do religion”. I explained that this was not a problem, I was just delighted to meet her and I said “I am not going to ‘cram’ my beliefs down your throat, I just simply was delighted to meet her and get to know her and her family that were at the event. She thanked me and said she appreciated that I would not be pushing my beliefs. We continued to talk and enjoyed the afternoon together, as friends, nothing more, no expectations other than being friends. It was delightful. As I was leaving the event a couple hours later, she stopped me and asked if she could as a ‘personal’ question. I said, sure not a problem. She wanted to know what is a “pastor, is it like a priest”? I smiled and told her it is kind-of like a priest, but a bit different. She then asked me what religion I was and I told her I am Lutheran. She wanted further information, so I told her that Martin Luther was actually a Catholic and was a Monk (Priest), but he started the Reformation to spread the news that you don’t have to “buy” your way into Heaven, that Christ died for our sins and it is a free gift, to all who believe. We continued our conversation, she still doesn’t know what she believes, but she is asking questions. I have a new friend and she has asked if she can call me for more information in the future. I was blessed by her and I know the Holy Spirit is working.

I think the most important thing I learned from this is I don’t have to insist that people listen to my beliefs, I need to be their friend and nothing more, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest, if I am willing to do my part.

I am excited for all of you to have this incredible feeling of joy and excitement. In the coming months, we will be incredibly busy, we will each be experiencing 2 meetings via skype with our learning huddles and working on setting up a Community group, a group that we will work with to teach some of the listening and learning techniques. These will be implemented now and in the future. This is an investment of not only money, but time and commitment to reaching all of God’s people.

PLEASE, keep us and our group in your prayers for the next two years, I promise we will do all we can to be good stewards of the opportunities God is giving us. Thank you again for your support and prayers.

Yours in Christ,
Debbie Oatman