NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–More than 150 people packed into a conference room at Nashville’s Hilton Hotel to enjoy lunch with fellow Southern Baptist Convention messengers and learn more about the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy.
“I want to call you to take off the gloves,” said Bobby Welch, Southern Baptist Convention president and creator of the FAITH strategy. “Go home and do something, and do it like you’ve never done it before.”
FAITH is a strategy of LifeWay Christian Resources 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 receive Christ.
Most of the people gathered for the FAITH Awareness luncheon had little, if any, first-hand experience with the strategy, but they came hoping to hear how they could implement the program in their own churches.
Brian Woodall went through FAITH training during seminary and attended the lunch hoping for pointers and information about involving all the Sunday School groups at Grace Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., where he serves as pastor.
Woodall said he believes the strategy is effective, but he needed some hints to help him create excitement and commitment to the program at Grace Baptist.
Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.; Mike Mitchell, a retired police sergeant and FAITH participant at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville; and Bruce Aubrey, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Liverpool, N.Y., all spoke to the luncheon crowd about the many ways FAITH has touched their lives and the lives of their churches.
“My prayer is what you hear and what you learn today will make you want to go out of here and tell people about Jesus Christ everyday,” said Jay Johnston, director of FAITH/evangelism and discipleship at LifeWay.
CHALLENGED TO GO FURTHER
In a conference room next door, veteran FAITH participants were encouraged and affirmed in their commitments to participate in next year’s challenge of seeing one million people baptized in Southern Baptist churches, a charge led by Welch.
“I believe that, in three months, when the calendar starts ticking, it’s possible to go where no Southern Baptist evangelical group has ever gone before,” Welch said in his welcome to the group. “If we give all we’ve got for God’s glory, it is bound to be monumental.”
This year Ryan French will participate in his 13th semester of FAITH since he started in ministry. Currently associate pastor of family life at First Baptist Church in Richmond Hills, Ga., French participated in Crossover Nashville and had the opportunity to lead a 53-year-old man facing his third heart bypass surgery to Christ.
“The key question is the greatest door opener there is — asking, ‘In your personal opinion, what does it take to get to heaven?'” French said. “As Bobby says, [FAITH] is a lifestyle, not a Tuesday night thing.”
Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., was the keynote speaker for the luncheon and reminded pastors that evangelism must be taken personally and prayerfully, with seriousness and with enthusiasm.
“The Great Commission is not up for a vote,” Zinn said. “God told us to do it … We’re at our best when we’re trusting God to work in us and through us.”
Pastors were asked to renew their commitment and encourage their fellow pastors and church members to be active in winning souls for Christ. The goal for the Southern Baptist Convention is to baptize 1 million new believers from Oct. 1, 2005, to Sept. 30, 2006.
When your heart resembles fallow ground, the days of growing in God are over.
That was the blunt but honest message Tom Elliff brought to the pastors who gathered at the LeaderLife luncheon hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources during the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville.
Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., and a past president of the SBC, emphasized the importance of pastors experiencing personal revival regularly in order to avoid spiritual burnout. He compared a heart without fruit to fallow ground that is hard and “impervious to the Word.”
“There’s a command to be followed,” Elliff said. “Break up your fallow ground. Let the Spirit of God drop as deep as it can in your heart.”
Breaking up fallow ground means exposing our sin to God, he explained.
“We love position, we love possessions, we have envy, bitterness, jealousy and slander in our hearts … If you refuse to break up your fallow ground, your walk with God can only get worse; it will never get better.”
Elliff encouraged pastors to get alone and make a “sin list” that puts down on paper specific sins a pastor is struggling with. Once the list has been created and reviewed and thought through, it should be destroyed.
“The issue here isn’t salvation, the issue is service, agreeing with God that the motivation of sin in our heart has been wrong,” Elliff said. “You can have revival. If you do, your family, church and even our nation also can.”