The Great Commission Evangelism Retreat for Church Leaders

©Dr. Frederick W. Baltz

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The Great Commission Evangelism Retreat for Church Leaders is a practical introduction to evangelism for church leaders. There is much more for pastors and church councils to explore, but this retreat is designed to help a church council engage in basic, effective evangelism, building on the strengths of the Lutheran tradition. Session scripts can be found at the bottom of this page...Click Here

The ideas that form the basis for this retreat are found in As of First Importance: A Theology and Practice of Evangelism for Mainline Churches by Dr. Frederick W. Baltz. This is certainly not the only approach to evangelism that a church may take. Neither is it altogether complete; at best, it can only be the beginning of a continuous emphasis on evangelism in the church. Much praying, disciplined learning, and working together lies ahead for the church that will be appropriately serious about this ministry.


The Great Commission Evangelism Retreat for Church Leaders begins on a Friday evening and concludes on Saturday at noon. Video presentations deliver information the council members will contemplate and discuss. Additional readings will make the retreat more effective. The suggested books to be read in advance are:

  • Essential Church, by Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer Buy
  • Evangelism that Works, by George Barna Buy
  • Igniting a Passion for Missions, by Bill Moberly Buy
  • Views of Baptism, by Frederick W. Baltz Buy


  • Friday Evening
    • 6:00-6:45 — Dinner
    • 6:45-7:15 — Opening worship and Bible study
    • 7:15-8:00 — *Introduction and history of Lutheran evangelism
    • 8:00-9:00 — *Pre-evangelism: earning the right to be heard
  • Saturday Morning
    • 9:00-9:15 — Opening prayer and devotions
    • 9:15-10:15 — *Evangelism: the ministry that leads to Baptism
    • 10:15-11:15 — *Re-evangelism: the ministry that leads to Communion
    • 11:15-11:45 — Discussion and commitment to prayer and study
    • 11:45-12:00 — *Conclusion and closing prayer

*includes video portions followed by discussion

Goals and Objectives

  • Goal 1: to provide ways to understand the evangelical task clearly
    • Objective: A. to clarify why evangelism must be the first priority of the church, B. to chart a brief history of evangelism in American Lutheran history
  • Goal 2: to ensure that the Council is ready to begin an effective evangelism ministry
    • Objective: A. to divide the evangelical task into its three dimensions B. to help the Council understand that all three dimensions must be happening at all times
  • Goal 3: to help identify natural opportunities for effective evangelism
    • Objective: A. to begin discussions among the members of the Council and the Pastor in order to make evangelism most effective in the local setting B. to initiate on-going learning opportunities from Scripture and from the wealth of available relevant literature.

The Retreat


The following prayer should be offered to each participant, with the stated expectation that, in these or other words, everyone should pray in advance for the effectiveness of the evangelical outreach of the church.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have promised your church that, if we ask anything in your name, you will do it. We believe no prayer could be no more fully in your name than our prayer for help to be faithful and effective in proclaiming your truth in word and deed. Empower us to make disciples—going, baptizing, and teaching. You have secured abundant life for all who place their faith in you. Bless and prosper our efforts for the building of your Kingdom. Amen.

The place for the retreat should be chosen with the ability in mind for participants to learn and discuss. A video projector, sound system, and screen will be needed. Since food is part of the retreat, a nearby kitchen is preferable, though food could be catered. The participants should not be responsible for preparing and serving the food, because this would limit their ability to take part in the retreat itself. The food is better left to others in the church.

Opening Worship (ten minutes)

Leader: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Appropriate songs may be sung by the participants, or recordings may be played. Allow time for silent reflection, and for silent prayer by all those participating in this event.

(The following prayer is based on suggested prayers by Martin Luther, sent to his barber in Wittenburg, who had asked Luther for practical advice on how he should pray. They may be found in Luther’s Prayers, ed. Herbert F. Brokering, Augsburg, 1967.)

L: Let us pray as Jesus taught us, specifically about God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. Lord God…

All together: Hallowed by thy name.

L: Ah, yes, Lord God, dear Father, hallow your name in us and in the world.

C: Destroy and smother horror, idolatry, and heresy in government and religion.

L: Also all false teachers or divisive spirits who wrongly bear your name and claim and boast something to be your Word and command of the church, that is really lies and deceptions of the devil.

C: Dear God, convert and control.

L: Convert those who are still to be converted, that together we may hallow and praise your holy name by pure and true teaching and a good and holy life.

C: Control those who refuse to be converted. May they stop misusing, defaming, dishonoring your holy name and misleading your needy people.

All together: Thy kingdom come.

L: O dear God and Father, you do see how the wisdom and reason of the world disregard your name and toss your honor to lies and to the devil. Dear Lord God and Father, convert and control.

C: Convert those who are still to become children and members of your kingdom, that together we may serve you in your kingdom.

L: Control those who would not withdraw their might and means from disturbing your kingdom. May they be dethroned.

All together: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

L: O dear God and Father, you know that the world cannot completely erase your name and destroy your kingdom.

C: This world is engaged day and night in malice and evil deeds.

L: Therefore, dear God and Father, convert and constrain.

C: Convert those who are yet to know your gracious will, that united we may be obedient to your will, and patiently and gladly endure all evil, the cross, and every tribulation.

L: Control those who would not stop their raging, fury, threatening, and malice to do evil. Collapse in shame their counsels, their wicked plans and actions.

All together: Amen.

Bible Study (twenty minutes)

Leader: Understanding the Great Commission isn’t difficult. Carrying it out proves more of a challenge.

Here is the situation in Matthew 28. Jesus’ ministry in this world has now been completed. He has been crucified, and has been raised from the dead. He has appeared alive to his disciples. As he is about to leave them after his final appearance, he speaks his last words to them. They are what is called “the Great Commission.”

It is certainly possible to tell what these words mean without being a specialist in New Testament Greek. However, the Greek offers something usually lost in English translations. Only one word in the Great Commission is an imperative verb, that is, a verb which is a command. It is the verb for “make disciples.” The other verbs are participles. They might be translated into English with a characteristic “-ing” ending. So, Matthew’s original Greek text of Jesus’ words would sound more like this:

  • “Make disciples…
    • going, (or ‘having gone’)
    • baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and
    • teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.” (The leader might wish to use large cards or posters to display the parts of the Great Commission as they are introduced in the Bible study.

Leader: There it is. Jesus has told us what to do, and how to do it. Going, baptizing, and teaching are the components of our evangelical task, which is making disciples for him. We are going to concentrate on these three participles in this retreat. There is a genius for evangelism built into them, as we might expect.

But did you know that the idea of winning the world to the one true God started long before Jesus? Read each of the following Bible texts, and discuss what each one means in terms of God’s outreach to the whole world:

  • Genesis 12:1-3
  • Isaiah 2:1-3
  • Amos 9:11-12
  • Zechariah 8:23

Now read and discuss these New Testament passages.

  • Luke 24:46-49
  • John 20:21-23
  • 1 Corinthians 9:19-22
  • Acts 16:8-10

Leader: The Bible is clear from beginning to end that God desires people to be saved through the Gospel of his Son. Now, it is time for our first video presentation. Let’s learn how God’s desire has fared among us Lutherans. THE VIDEOS WILL BE COMING SOON!

Introduction, and History of Lutheran Evangelism in America

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does any of this Lutheran history come as a surprise to you?
  2. Do you agree that the primary focus of ministry in Lutheran churches is usually something other than evangelism?
  3. What will be required to break out of the patterns of the past?

Pre-evangelism: earning the right to be heard

Discussion Questions

  1. Can you name some ways your church has become known to the community in a positive way?
  2. What can you do to be sure that everyone who comes into your church is warmly welcomed?
  3. In the list of questions that was part of the video, did anything in particular strike you? If so, what was it?
  4. Does your church ever have special events designed to set your message out before the church and the wider community?

Group prayer with each member of the group adding his/her petition.


Evangelism: the work that leads to baptism

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think baptism is understood and respected in the churches as it should be?
  2. In so many churches parents and sponsors make promises for children at baptism which they have no intention of keeping. What can be done about this?
  3. In the early church there was a lot of emphasis placed on learning the things of the faith before an adult could be baptized. It might take two years. What does today’s situation call for? How can your church have the very finest means of teaching the basics of the Christian faith to someone who enquires?

Re-evangelism: the ministry that leads to Communion

Discussion Questions:

  1. What steps, if any, still need to be taken in your church to ensure that all have opportunities to grow in their relationship to Christ by learning?
  2. Do you provide new Christians with a sufficient understanding of the Bible and doctrine for their journey?
  3. Do you ever have special events or special guests that are meant to help Christians become more devoted disciples?

Final Discussion

Concluding Prayer

Safe Harbors

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