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FAITH continues nationwide impact; 80 training clinics planned in 1999

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Two 12-year-old girls in Alabama used it to lead nine people to faith in Christ.
A Houston church used it to increase its Sunday school attendance by more than 200.
A North Carolina college student who had never effectively shared his faith used it to win 20 people to Christ during a spring break “beach reach” in Florida.
A California woman used it on four visits and led four people to Christ.
A small Florida church used it to lead nine people to Christ and add 57 new members to its Sunday school rolls.
So, what is “it”?
It’s FAITH, a strategy launched in 1998 by LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention which ties evangelism, ministry and assimilation to a church’s ongoing Sunday school ministry. Participating churches must have the support and involvement of their pastors, attend a four-day training clinic and hold a 16-week semester of FAITH training in their church.
“God is doing something wonderful, something amazing through this initiative,” Jay Johnston, director of the FAITH Sunday school ministry department at LifeWay, said. “He is raising up one of the greatest army of volunteers the world has ever seen through an organization called the Sunday school. I believe that army is going to touch lives, lead thousands to faith in Christ and thousands of others to know him better than they’ve ever known him before.”
Actually, it’s already happening. Consider this background:
The initiative got its start in January 1998 an a training clinic at First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla. Leaders from 28 Southern Baptist churches participated. After returning home, members of these churches made 26,823 home visits in the remaining months of 1998, sharing the FAITH gospel outline more than 6,000 times and leading 1,510 people to Christ.
In turn, these churches hosted training clinics for churches in their region. Leaders from 1,564 churches attended FAITH training clinics in 1998 and approximately 80 such training events are scheduled across the country in 1999.
Testimonials from churches participating in FAITH training are pouring in to LifeWay’s headquarters.
Shortly after finishing his church’s first semester of FAITH training in December, Barry Cosper, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Roanoke, Ala., said he was “impressed by the simplicity of it. It is the best stuff I’ve seen in 27 years of pastoring.”
During Trinity’s first few weeks of evangelistic and ministry visits included as part of the FAITH training, Cosper said members discovered several opportunities for ministry but failed to see the number of conversions they had hoped and prayed for.
Then they began targeting multihousing projects in their small southern town of about 7,000 residents. In a seven-week period, 40 people accepted Christ. About 25 became prospective members; others were funneled to other local congregations of their choice.
Nine of those professions of faith resulted from the witnessing efforts of two 12-year-old girls who are members at Trinity, but weren’t even enrolled in the FAITH training class. Brooke Farmer simply borrowed her mother’s FAITH gospel outline card, memorized it and used the presentation to lead five people to Christ. Her friend, Jessica Freeman, followed suit, leading four people to Christ.
Trinity even got a visiting pastor from the Ukraine in on its FAITH witnessing effort. Kostya Bakano helped as one FAITH team led to Christ a 22-year-old daughter and her mother and a husband and wife who only moments before had been contemplating divorce.
As a result of the FAITH ministry, Trinity is starting two new Sunday school classes — one focusing on those recovering from divorce and another off-campus study for singles.
Mark Anderson, pastor of Lynwood Baptist Church, Cape Girardeau, Mo., said members of his church’s FAITH teams led 27 people to Christ in the church’s first semester of the ministry. Twenty-one of those new converts already have been baptized and joined the church.
“I don’t know what we would be doing without FAITH; I’m fully sold on it,” Anderson said. “It certainly has helped our church develop a soul-consciousness. There’s nothing better than seeing our laypeople walk down the aisle with people they’ve led to Christ.”
Billy Johnson, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, had been a Christian for 13 years but had never led anyone to Christ until he enrolled in the FAITH ministry.
Last spring, he led 20 people to Christ during a spring break “beach reach” event in Panama City, Fla.
“There’s no doubt that FAITH really helped prepare me for that trip; it helped me learn how to present the gospel in a conversational way,” said Johnson, who has been a FAITH team leader at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, for two semesters.
Steve Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oak Hill, Fla., was so excited about the potential of FAITH he convinced 18 members of his church to drive 30 miles one way each week to attend training at First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach. After attending the weekly session, they would drive back home and make their witnessing and ministry visits the same night.
During 14 weeks of visiting, the Oak Hill FAITH teams led nine people to Christ and enrolled 57 people in Sunday school.
“For a church this size, it was an awesome accomplishment,” said Jones, whose congregation averages about 135 in weekly Sunday school attendance. “Just as important, though, is what I’ve seen happen to the 18 people participating in this. Their hearts have been changed, broken. They have a new outlook on reaching people for Christ. They are truly becoming Great Commission Christians.”
Jones, who plans to teach the FAITH ministry concept to students at a Baptist seminary in Brazil in March, encourages other small churches to give FAITH a try.
“God is right in the middle of this. He’s taking what we’ve got and multiplying it. This is the greatest process, in my opinion, for reaching people for Jesus Christ that has ever come out of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Other reports received by LifeWay include testimonials from:
— Jan Williams, an adult Sunday school class teacher at Immanuel Baptist Church, Highland, Calif. She led four people to Christ during her first four FAITH visits.
“I could never have done this without the tools of FAITH and a dedicated pastor,” Williams said. “This is as good as it gets until Jesus comes.”
— Sal Sberna, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, Houston, which has increased its weekly Sunday school attendance by 200 through professions of faith and ministry visits related to the FAITH initiative.
— Vaughn Forest Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala., which has baptized more than 80 people since it began implementing the FAITH strategy.
Johnston said interest in FAITH has “mushroomed” faster than LifeWay officials had expected or prepared for, but added, “It’s a wonderful problem to have.” He suggested church leaders use the following contacts for more information:
— For general information about FAITH, call toll-free 1-877-324-8498.
— To register for a FAITH training clinic, call 1-800-254-2022. For information about FAITH clinics, call Larry Ware at (615) 251-2183, or contact him via email at [email protected].
— FAITH training resources are distributed to church leaders and pastors who attend FAITH training clinics. Churches with pastors who have attended one of these training events may also order FAITH resources, toll-free, via LifeWay’s Customer Service Center, 1-800-458-2772. For questions about FAITH resources, call Doug Merritt at (615) 251-3619, or contact him via email at [email protected].

    About the Author

  • Chip Alford