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FAITH strategy celebrates 5 years of evangelism via Sunday School

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–The FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy, as an international entity, is five years old. More than 400 people celebrated the milestone Jan. 27-31 at FAITH’s birthplace, First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.

FAITH is a strategy that combines evangelism and Sunday School. It originated at First Baptist, Daytona Beach, and was introduced to Southern Baptists five years ago by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

More than 350 FAITH training clinics have been held in the past five years, with almost 4,200 people being led to a saving faith in Christ by clinic participants. The number of churches involved in FAITH has grown from 28 originator churches in January 1998 to 6,834 at the end of 2002.

Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist, Daytona Beach, and Doug Williams, retired minister of evangelism at the church, are the co-creators of FAITH and authors of “Evangelism Through the Sunday School: A Journey of FAITH.”

In FAITH, participants are grouped into teams of three. These teams have class for 16 weeks, learning how to share their faith with people who don’t know Jesus Christ as Savior, as well as learning how to better minister to fellow believers.

These teams go out weekly, knocking on doors and making visits. Based on the results of these visits, the teams bring back information to their churches where Sunday School classes are ready to make additional contact.

A Spanish language clinic, Por Fe, was held in conjunction with the FAITH institute in Dayton Beach. The nine Por Fe participants represented congregations in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Paraguay, Mexico, as well as a Spanish-language congregation in New York.

FAITH’s international influence has spread beyond English- and Spanish- speaking countries. Clinics have been held in Germany, Japan, Brazil as well as New Zealand, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The key to the success of FAITH, leaders say, is the leadership of the pastor. Because of this, a church can’t participate in FAITH without the pastor’s involvement and support.

Rob Zinn is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., one of the originator churches.

“I have a great staff,” Zinn admitted. “But, you know what, my people will be involved [in FAITH] a lot more because I’m doing it. If they know they can come to a class that I’m teaching and that I’ll be leading a FAITH team myself, they will follow me,” he said.

Gene Mims, vice president of LifeWay’s church resources division, spoke to the group during a commissioning service for the new FAITH pastors, during which FAITH-trained members of First Baptist handed off batons to the group, symbolizing the continuation of FAITH’s influence.

Mims challenged the new FAITH pastors to keep moving forward with the Sunday School evangelism strategy. “It’s been 30 years since there’s been an outpouring of God’s Spirit in this country in a great and powerful way,” he said.

“Where is the supernatural manifestation of God’s Spirit among us? It’s not our faith that’s the problem; it’s a lack of faith that prevents God from doing great and wonderful things among us,” Mims said.

“Do you have any unbelief in your heart tonight? We’re locked and lost in our traditions, trying to do the best we can,” he said.

“We’ve probably trained a quarter of a million people in FAITH through our churches in the past five years, but that’s not enough,” Mims said. “We’ve probably seen hundreds of thousands of people come to know Christ, but that’s not enough.”

Major General William G. Boykin, commanding general of the U.S. Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, also spoke. “Anyone who puts on the armor of God becomes a target for Satan,” Boykin said. “Be ready. He will be coming. He’ll try to stop you from doing what God wants you to do. But you knew that already.”

He said, “When you stepped into the FAITH arena, you said, ‘Here am I. Send me.’ Not every Christian is a soul-winner, but you said, ‘Here am I. Send me.’ You volunteered to be a part of this battle.”

Speaking about a journey of faith, Boykin said it’s easy to recognize God’s plan in hindsight. “When you took that step into the FAITH ministry and made that commitment, God had a plan for you. He has the plan and your job is to stay faithful and to get up every day and put on that armor. Endure and wait to see what God has for you in this life. Endure!”

Emerson Wiles, pastor of Miliani Baptist Church in Honolulu, said during the four years his church has done FAITH, the results have been extraordinary.

“This isn’t the Bible belt, people. This is Hawaii! We’ve just started our ninth semester of FAITH,” he said.

Wiles said all the Miliani deacons are FAITH-trained or are going through training now. In addition, all the church’s Sunday School teachers are FAITH-trained.

“Our church knows that Tuesday is about FAITH,” he said. “That’s all we do. Our people know that if they die and want their funeral on Tuesday, it better be between FAITH semesters!”

Wiles said the church has a Kingdom mentality. “We want people to come to know the Lord, not just Miliani Baptist Church.”

Mark Anderson, pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., was a FAITH originator pastor at First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Anderson reminded institute participants that when they are doing FAITH, struggles will come. Using the metaphor of a marriage, he told the group that when they get tired and want to quit, to “go down memory lane. When troubled times come, it helps to go back to when love was fresh. Remember … remember … remember. Walk down memory lane. Paul told Timothy to remember Jesus Christ.”

On the last night of the institute, the newly trained FAITH participants, as well as the veterans, went out into the Daytona Beach area to share their faith with residents.

Following visitation, a celebration time was held in which the 128 teams came back and reported on their visits.

The gospel was presented 233 times, resulting in 79 professions of faith. First Baptist also received 294 new prospects for their Sunday School.

The six teams from the Por Fe clinic presented the gospel 12 times, resulting in nine professions of faith. They discovered 50 prospects for the church.

Welch said that in spite of what pollsters say about visitation not working anymore, the FAITH strategy does work.

“We have absolutely no record, none, not one, of FAITH failing when two things happen. One, the pastor leads the way. Two, when the FAITH formula you learn at the clinic is used.

“If you are looking for a certain kind of people, who look a certain kind of way, who dress a certain kind of way, who drive a certain kind of car, you might not want to do what we’ve done here,” he cautioned. “But if you want to just cast out your net and catch anyone who comes in, this will work.”

In closing, Shelby Smith, director of LifeWay’s FAITH Sunday School ministry department, issued a challenge to institute participants: “You will never experience in the pew what you’ll find out there in the field. Now, go and change the world.”

To find out more, call the toll-free FAITH information line at 1-877-324-8498 or go to www.lifeway.com/faith.

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  • Polly House