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Hundreds being saved through FAITH evangelism initiative

NASHVILLE, Tenn.(BP)–It’s been only four months since leaders from 28 Southern Baptist churches were trained in how to carry out a new strategy that “marries” Sunday school and evangelism. But early reports from the “FAITH Originator Churches” indicate hundreds are already coming to Christ as a result of the initiative.
“It’s going phenomenally well, beyond what any of us really expected,” Steve Cretin, director of the leadership and evangelism department in the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board’s Bible teaching-reaching division, said. The Sunday School Board is co-sponsoring FAITH with the North American Mission Board.
“One of the exciting things is that most every church I’ve talked to is not only reporting large numbers of decisions, they’re also having the highest attendance in Sunday school they’ve ever had,” Cretin said. “That tells me we’re not only reaching people for Christ, but we’re getting them involved in Bible study, too. And that’s what this is all about.”
Designed to turn around a “flat-line” baptism rate in the Southern Baptist Convention, FAITH ties ongoing, personal evangelism training to a church’s Sunday school organization. Participants agree to attend 16 training sessions and practice what they learn in home visits. The initiative also includes weekly meetings for Sunday school teachers and group leaders, intentional discipleship and plans for assimilating new Christians into the life of the church.
The 28 originator churches were trained in January at First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., and will hold training clinics for other churches in their areas this fall.
At FBC, Daytona Beach, the church which launched the strategy last year, more than 500 people are enrolled in FAITH training this semester. Tom Lynn, minister of evangelism and international missions, said more than 100 professions of faith have been reported, including 47 in one week.
Lynn said members are actively seeking opportunities to share the gospel using the FAITH outline, sometimes finding openings in unusual situations.
For example, one of Daytona’s FAITH teams was returning to the church recently when they spotted a dog on the side of the road which had been hit by a car. When they turned around and got out to check on the animal, they noticed a young man standing nearby and began talking with him. As the conversation progressed, the subject of death obviously came up. This led into an evangelistic presentation and the young man prayed to receive Christ.
Flomich Avenue Baptist Church, a small congregation also located in Daytona Beach, has 12 three-member teams involved in its second semester of FAITH training. In the first 14 weeks of the program, 33 professions of faith have been recorded on visitation nights and 14 more on other days of the week for a total of 47 decisions for Christ.
Pastor Jerry Webb said his church has already baptized 23 persons so far in 1998 — four more than they baptized all last year. Four new Sunday school classes are being started and improvements are being made to the church building to accommodate the new members.
Next semester, he hopes to have 20 FAITH teams sharing the gospel around the community.
“This has shaken up our church and drawn us closer together,” Webb said. “It’s exciting to see the spiritual growth that’s occurring in the life of our church family, not only in the FAITH team members, but in the folks who are supporting them in prayer and in other ways.”
At Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston, 120 people are participating in 40 FAITH teams. According to minister of evangelism Lane Dyke, one team not only played a role in saving two souls, they may have saved a family as well.
“A young girl in our Christian day-care program was crying and when one of our workers talked with her, she told them she was upset because her mom and dad were leaving each other that day,” Dyke reported. “One of our FAITH teams made a visit to the home and the moving van with the woman’s things pulled away right as they arrived. But the team members talked and counseled with the couple, and they were able to lead them both to Christ.”
The couple is now in counseling and attempting to reconcile, Dyke said.
A similar story unfolded at Trinity Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss. Pastor Jim Butler said his FAITH team recently called on a young woman with two young children whose husband had recently left her.
“She had never been in church, but she told us, ‘Whether my husband ever comes back to me or not, my life needs to change. Can you tell me how to do that?'” The FAITH team witnessed to her, she accepted Christ and later brought her estranged husband to church. They, too, are in the process of reconciling.
Butler said another FAITH team at Trinity stuck to their mission despite their leader’s absence one week. They simply picked up another participant and went to call on a grieving family who had lost a husband and father earlier in the week. Although it was the first time members of the team had shared the FAITH outline, the widow and all three of her teenage daughters accepted Christ.
“In the two months before we started FAITH, we had 26 professions of faith,” Butler reported. “In the two months we’ve been doing this, we’ve had 34 — almost a 50 percent increase!”
“FAITH has created a climate of excitement in our church,” he said. “There is a hunger in our people to share their faith that they didn’t have before.”

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  • Chip Alford