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Outreach conference energizes Lutherans

October 20, 2011 No Comment

Hearing about the changed relationship between the church and society and how it affects our witness was only one of many new insights brought before more than 185 people attending an outreach conference in Vancouver, B.C, October 14-15.

Organized by Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) and Lutheran Church–Canada’s Alberta-British Columbia District, the Regional Outreach Conference (ROC) was the first held in Canada. Speakers included Rev. Greg Seltz, speaker of The Lutheran Hour; Rev. Dr. Robert Newton, president of the LCMS California, Nevada, Hawaii District; and devotional leader, Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer, ABC District’s mission executive. Participants came from B.C., Alberta, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado and Washington State and represented a broad demographic cross-section. “As you looked around the room, you saw tables of young adults, teens, and older adults taking notes and discussing the issues with each other,” observed Ian Adnams, LCC’s director of Communications.

The opening session on Friday evening introduced a new element to the ROC. Rev. Seltz and ROC organizer and host, Faith Spellbring, setup video clips featuring common reactions and responses to the Christian faith and church. Groups around tables then used information shared by Rev. Seltz in his keynote address to help formulate responses. (One pastor, seated with teens, middle-aged people and seniors noted a difference in reactions depending on age.) Following the table discussions, all participants had the opportunity to share with the conference what they had discussed and learned.

Rev. Dr. Robert Newton answers a question following his keynote presentation

Saturday’s plenary session featured Rev. Robert Newton who described how the church’s place in society has changed drastically over the past 100 years and how that impacts outreach in the 21st century. Whereas at one time the church had a place of authority and influence on society, that is no longer the case he noted. The result is a general population for which church is irrelevant or an unknown. That attitude affects how Christians witness to their faith. Dr. Newton talked about how the church and Christians need to be “permeable,” breaking down walls and allowing people to see who we are: “100% saints and 100% sinners.”

Eighteen workshops on Saturday afternoon provided practical insight into making the most of outreach opportunities with specific groups and in various situations. Six Canadian presenters took charge of seven workshops. Teens spent the day in LHM’s five14 program specifically designed for that age group.

“More than the content, it was great seeing so many people from so many areas and walks of life with the same interest in outreach” said John Kim, a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Surrey, B.C. “The ROC renewed my energy, passion and vision for outreach.”

The ROC emphasized that the focus for witness is always Christ and it is through His strength that Christians share His Good News. In practical terms, it is important for everyone to know their neighbours and neighbourhoods then use that information to establish relationships and to serve them.

LHM plans another ROC-type event as part of the Int’l Lutheran Laymen’s League convention in Saskatoon in July 2012, and a year later in conjunction with Lutheran Church–Canada’s National Youth Gathering in Winnipeg.

Snowbirds can attend a ROC in Orlando, Florida, January 13-14, 2012. More information about Regional Outreach Conferences is available at www.lhm.org/ROC

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