MADILL, Okla. (BP)–How many church members would be more willing to go out and share the Gospel if they knew people were sitting in their homes just waiting for a visit?
Members of First Baptist Church in Madill, Okla., they met someone who was doing just that as they were out sharing Jesus through their FAITH Sunday School evangelism outreach.
Frank Davis said he knew he needed to get back in church and had been praying about it.
“I told God that the first church that comes by to visit, that’s where I’ll go,” Davis said.
That church was First Baptist, and now Davis is a member, sings in the choir and leads a Bible study for men who work with him at the peanut factory in Madill. He also went on a mission trip to Mexico with the church and helped in a Vacation Bible School that began with 11 children and grew to more than 100.
Davis is just one of many success stories at the southern Oklahoma church since it began FAITH visitation in January 2001 when Bob Waitman came as pastor.
Waitman had seen the success of the FAITH strategy during his two years at Central Baptist Church in Baytown, Texas, when attendance doubled from 100 to 200.
In the three years before FAITH at Madill, the church baptized a total of 28 people. Since January 2001, the church has baptized more than five times that number.
In 2000, average Sunday School attendance was 206; in 2001, it was 226; in 2002, it was 270; and so far this year, average attendance is 352.
Madill has a population of about 3,500, and at least 80 percent of the homes have been visited by First Baptist members.
“We put a bag with a Bible, pen and church schedule on every door in the city,” Waitman said. “And we returned to visit those who were not at home.”
At every home, church members asked if the family was actively attending church. If the answer was no, they became prospects.
In addition to FAITH visitation, the church has four major outreach initiatives during the year: the National Sand Bass Festival, a sports camp, fall festival and community Easter egg hunt.
“We give free gifts at a drawing at some of these events, which people have to sign up for,” Waitman said. “They have to fill out a card which asks if they are actively involved in church and if they would accept a visit from the church.” He noted that the sports camp had 200 kids each of the three days and registered 54 decisions for Christ.
The church and currently averages 20 FAITH teams going out on Monday nights.
“We have a meal at the church on visitation nights, because a lot of people come straight from work,” Waitman said. “We also have a nursery and people to help older children with their homework, thus freeing a lot of parents to participate.”
Among the new believers is a person who signed up to participate in FAITH.
“When it came time to do the testimony part of the training, she realized she didn’t have a testimony,” the pastor recounted.
One couple who has benefited from the FAITH visitation is Larry and Pamela Whiteman, who moved to Madill from California about four years ago.
“I met some church people when I first came here, and became friends with them,” Pamela said. “I used to tease them that they must be getting bonus points for bringing people to church, because they kept asking me to go.”
When the team of Phyllis Morse, Evelyn Williams and the pastor visited the Whiteman home, they found a very bitter Larry Whiteman, who told the team that his first wife died needlessly after something so simple as a broken leg and resulting blood clot, and he blamed God for her death.
“I’m not saying there is no supreme being,” Whiteman told the team, “but if there is, I’m mad at Him.”
Waitman was able to relate to his pain because he had lost a grandson in an automobile accident. The pastor also explained to Whiteman that Jesus suffered pain too, and that Christ gives hope.
“I told him that I bounced into his life just a few minutes ago, but I was there because someone came to my house and led me to Christ many years ago,” Waitman said.
He then asked Whiteman the leading question, “In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a person to go to heaven?”
Whiteman said he had never been a religious person, although his first wife was a Christian.
But the question yielded “just the right time” for Whiteman to turn to Christ for salvation.
“Phyllis is our prayer coordinator, and we had serious prayer on our way out to the Whitemans’ home,” the pastor added.
Whiteman said his salvation experience has not been a miraculous turnaround, so to speak, because “I still loose my temper, but my being upset is reduced on a daily scale.”
He said he appreciates life more and now believes there is some reason for his life, that God has a special purpose for him.
Pamela Whiteman, who was baptized along with Larry, said she can tell a difference in her husband.
“There is a peace about him,” she said. “Larry’s late wife was a Christian, and he now has peace because he knows where she is and is OK with it.”
The Whitemans, after joining First Baptist, have been members of a FAITH team for two semesters and had the joy of seeing someone saved the first night they visited.
“Going out on FAITH, your eyes are opened to a lot of potential happiness,” Whiteman said. “I want to share that with people.” He said he’s never been a shy person, and wants “to go to every door in Madill and tell them what I’ve discovered.”
“It was hard for Larry to admit he needed Christ,” Pamela said. “He is a proud man and likes to do things his own way.”
The Whitemans said their eyes were opened when they went with the church on its mission trip to Mexico.
“We saw happy and caring people who had no material blessing,” Whiteman said. Pamela added that although she still likes nice things, their values, as well as their lives, have changed.
Changing lives will continue in Madill, said Waitman, as church members are still visitng homes, making sure everyone in the town has heard the Good News.
“A lost person has no reason to go to church,” the pastor said. “That’s why we have to take the Gospel to them.”