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FAITH done right revitalizes church’s evangelistic reach

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–FAITH was dead when Mike Napier arrived at First Baptist Church in 2001 as the new minister of education and outreach. Now, three years later, FAITH is thriving, with 43 active teams — a total of 129 people.

The Owasso, Okla., church had used the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy for three semesters before Napier’s arrival, with little success. Now FAITH prospers at the church.

“I asked the pastor [Roger Ferguson] if he would be willing to let me try to resurrect our FAITH ministry. He said I could,” said Napier, who led a class on “How to Revitalize Your FAITH Ministry” during the National FAITH Institute Jan. 24-27 at First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla.

FAITH is a strategy created by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention that combines Sunday School with evangelism. It uses the acrostic F-A-I-T-H (forgiveness, available, impossible, turn and heaven) as a tool for leading people to a point of receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Napier began looking at what was happening with FAITH at the church, and he discovered that the recommended formula of having a meal, a training period, visitation time and celebration wasn’t being followed. The few functioning teams were meeting on Wednesday nights on an abbreviated schedule, with all the other Wednesday night activities going on around them.

“I got the two best FAITH guys in the church and took them with me to a FAITH clinic as alumni,” Napier said. “The LifeWay folks at the clinic helped us diagnose what was going wrong and gave us some tips on how to fix it.”

The men went back to Owasso with a renewed commitment to the strategy. Some of the FAITH team members weren’t ready to give up the Wednesday night group, so Napier let them continue but added a new FAITH group on Monday nights. This one followed the formula and thrived.

“People began to see great results and enjoyed the whole experience,” Napier said. “Pretty soon, everyone wanted to do the Monday night FAITH, so the ineffective Wednesday night group disbanded.”

Napier spearheaded a discussion at the institute with class participants about ways to encourage success in their churches’ FAITH ministries. Among his suggestions:

— The senior pastor has to believe in FAITH and be willing to rally his people around it. “The pastor has the authority to tell every staff member to clear his calendar and lead a FAITH team.”

— Every semester, rotate the FAITH teams. “If you go more than a semester with the same team, you have a clique.”

— Cultivate the team leaders so they, in turn, will cultivate their teams. “Keep in touch with them,” Napier counseled. “Call them and tell them you are looking forward to seeing them on [whichever] night, that you’re looking forward to making the visits.”

–Use events such as Vacation Bible School, Upward Basketball and fall festivals to discover prospects. “Have people register at every event. Then take that registration information and turn it into FAITH cards,” Napier said. Also, take advantage of public record information. “Go to your water company, for example, and get a copy of the new households in your zip code, then go make a welcome visit to those people.”

— Do something to show all the team members they are special. “I do a FAITH newsletter that we hand out every Monday night at the FAITH meal,” Napier said. “I include team members’ birthdays on it. When we get there, we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and just make a big deal out of it. You tell me anyone who wouldn’t want to be there for that.”

Napier believes everything in FAITH rises and falls on the leadership.

“You say, ‘I’m tired and I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be excited anymore,’ but I say, ‘You don’t have that option!’” Napier said. “People are out there who need to be reached.”

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