Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Three Bloomington congregations team up to share good news

The trio of LCMS parishes drew on a national Lutheran training team

Wear your name badge on the right shoulder, that’s where people tend to look first. Use rounded borders in your church newspaper ads to communicate that your church is a contemporary congregation, straight edges for a traditional congregation.

These and other details, large and small, were points of discussion at a recent evangelism training effort in three Bloomington congregations.

The congregations of Lutheran Church of the Redemption, Mt. Hope Lu-theran and Holy Emmanuel Lutheran combined to invite two teams from Harvesters for Christ, a nationwide Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) evangelism training organization. Pastor Dennis Starr of Holy Emmanuel said the effort focused on “everything pertaining to winning souls for Christ.” Says Starr, “This is a big deal for us.”

Beginning with a kickoff potluck at Holy Emmanuel Lutheran Church, the two teams spent September 16 through October 6 with members and leaders of the three congregations, leading discussions and training classes on topics ranging from “Media and Evan-gelism” to “Usher and Greeter Training.”
“Churches tend to isolate,” says Starr. “They do a lot of things poorly.”

In an attempt to improve their performance in the diverse areas of evangelism, the three LCMS congregations decided to work together to bring the Har-vesters for Christ to Bloom-ington. They received a grant from the Synod to help fund the effort.

“One goal is to keep us working together,” says Pastor Dennis Drews of Lutheran Church of the Redemption.

The two Harvesters for Christ teams that worked with the Bloomington congregations are made up Les and Carol Roth of Richville, Michigan, and Al and Joy Axelson of Scottsdale, Arizona. They are volunteer lay members of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. According to the volunteers, there are approximately 30 teams that have operated in nearly all 35 LCMS districts.

Although the Harvesters for Christ teams are volunteers, the host congregations are responsible for travel, lodging, and meal costs for the team members.

The Axelsons, who have worked with nine other churches in their ministry, have been a part of Harvesters for Christ since 1999. Al and Joy are both retired AT&T employees and have experience in counter-cult ministries in their home church. “Every church has a personality,” says Joy.

The Harvesters for Christ director “matches personality to the congregation,” says Al, describing how the teams are chosen and assigned. Typically, according to Al, the teams receive their assignment two to four months in advance.
Bloomington was only the second Harvesters for Christ assignment for the Roth team. But Carol says she is happy to be working with the experienced Axel-son team, who actually helped train them in the Harvesters for Christ ministry.
Les Roth served the LCMS as a teacher and principal in Lutheran schools in Michigan for 38 years before retiring and later joining the Harvesters for Christ ministry. His wife and ministry partner, Carol, was also a Lutheran school teacher before their children were born.

Pastor Dan Ritter of Mt. Hope, whose previous church in Omaha, Nebraska, participated in a Harvesters for Christ event, was satisfied with the effort. “It has been great and I’m so pleased and proud of my congregation for the high level of excitement and participation exhibited,” he says.
Church member Marlys Herman, who attended a majority of the sessions, was also impressed by the Harvesters for Christ teams. “Some of us were thinking it might be kind of boring,” she admits. “It wasn’t.”

Says Herman, “They inspired you to want to do something,” adding that they were well-prepared and good at setting out their information.

Herman says she was most challenged by the session on reaching out to inactive church members, and feels that this will be the area that her church will immediately focus on as a result of this experience. “I think we’ll be more caring for each other,” she said.