DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–An accident on a construction site blinded Shane. For three years he remained mad at God, wondering if blindness was his punishment for a self-described wild lifestyle. Mark Larson knew none of that as he and two others approached Shane’s apartment door to which they were “drawn by God,” Larson says.
Larson — a member of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., where the Sunday School-based FAITH evangelism strategy originated — told the rest of the story to hundreds attending a FAITH training clinic on Jan. 24.
Shane explained that just two nights prior to the visit he’d had a dream in which he saw people from a church come to his door and tell him about Jesus. Two nights later they did, and Shane prayed a prayer of repentance and faith, committing his life to Jesus Christ.
“‘I no longer feel as if God is against me,’” said Larson, recounting Shane’s comments. “‘But I feel like He is with me now.’”
Shane’s story and Larson’s testimony are among the many thousands of similar ones that highlight 25 years and 50 semesters of intentional evangelism at the Florida church.
Bobby Welch, co-founder of the FAITH evangelism strategy and key-note speaker for the training clinic, cited some of his experiences in telling others about Jesus.
The immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor emeritus of the church, Welch said while driving one night he noticed his gas gauge was nearly on empty. He didn’t want to stop, as gas along the Interstate was overpriced. But he did. When the receipt failed to pop out of the pump, he went inside. The next few minutes found Welch leading the clerk in a prayer of repentance from sin and of faith in Christ with Welch sharing the Gospel using the FAITH outline.
Recalling another occasion, Welch said he drove into a convenience store parking lot, then went inside not knowing why. He decided to get a cup of coffee. When he paid for the coffee, he also shared the Gospel. That clerk also prayed, committing her life to Christ.
The woman, Welch said, explained that she needed spiritual help because her baby had died recently. Then she reached for a stack of Gospel tracts that people had given her and told Welch no one had explained what they meant.
“You’re the first one to do that,’” Welch quoted the woman as saying. “‘And you’re the only one to pray with me.’”
Preaching on the theme of endurance, Welch read from 1 Timothy 2:3-4, reminding the crowd that Christians witness “not so the parking lot will be full, or that the offerings will go up. We do this for Jesus. We do this for Jesus. Some of you preachers out there need to hear me on this.”
In an interview after his sermon, Welch told Baptist Press that 50 subsequent semesters of evangelism “is a hallmark in the equipping and training of people to reach the world and meet needs in their own community.”
“I think what is so powerful about this is the focus FAITH evangelism can give to church leaders and members, because they all function out of one set of core values,” he said. “FAITH evangelism provides that cohesive boost that so many churches need to first get united and then to get pointed in the right direction.”
Regarding a consistent plan of church evangelism, Welch said, “The longer it goes, the stronger it gets.”
“When I heard about the milestone that First Baptist had reached, I was elated and thankful that this church has been so intentional about evangelism for so many years,” said Jay Johnston, director of FAITH evangelism and discipleship at LifeWay Christian Resources.
“For this church to dedicate 32 weeks a year for 25 years in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ –- it’s not only commendable, it also reveals the church’s compassion for those who don’t know our Savior, and a commitment to equip the saints for the work of the ministry according to Ephesians chapter four,” Johnston said. “First Baptist’s dedication provides an example worthy of imitation for all pastors and churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Through the evangelism strategy, the Gospel is shared by using the acronym “F.A.I.T.H.” For instance, the “F” letter stands for “forgiveness. The remainder of the acronym stands for “available,” “impossible,” “turn” and “heaven.”
More information about the FAITH evangelism strategy is available at www.lifeway.com (search for “FAITH”).