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Seminary hosts FAITH clinic; new youth materials introduced

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Christians should serve as roadblocks for those on the road to hell, said Bobby Welch, pastor of the church that originated the strategy that now has become the nationally used FAITH Sunday school evangelism materials.
“People are going to hell in epidemic proportions,” Welch said, “but most church members don’t know how to do a thing about it.”
Welch, who earned his master of divinity degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and has promoted evangelism through Sunday school throughout his 25-year pastorate at First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., was the lead speaker at a FAITH clinic held at his alma mater March 8-11. The 232 participants, including 80 pastors and 12 NOBTS students, settled onto the campus to learn the evangelism strategy which integrates outreach and evangelism with the assimilation and discipleship of Sunday school.
While statistics show that 70 percent of Southern Baptist churches and 85 percent of churches of all denominations are plateaued or declining, Welch said he finds “many are committed to church growth, but not nearly that many are committed to growing the church people.” Therefore, “We must be about training committed Great Commission Christians or we will not win the world.”
Attending the clinic were pastors and laymen from 80 churches who came to receive the training themselves so they could be certified to teach the FAITH strategy at their home churches in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Colorado and Montana. Part of the FAITH strategy is to require the pastor to be trained to use the materials before anyone else at the church may be trained.
The most unique characteristic of this clinic was that it was held apart from a sponsoring church serving as base of operations. LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention joined forces with the ministerial staff of FBC Daytona Beach and NOBTS’ Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Growth to test the clinic’s effectiveness in this format.
“We were thrilled when LifeWay partnered with NOBTS and First Baptist of Daytona Beach to experiment with this new FAITH clinic paradigm,” said Chuck Register, director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Growth and associate professor of evangelism at New Orleans Seminary.
“Evangelism has always been the heartbeat of NOBTS, and the FAITH Sunday school evangelism strategy is quickly becoming a key component in the training of our students,” Register said. “We look forward to future opportunities to work with both the staff of FBC Daytona Beach and LifeWay here on our campus.”
Welch was joined by three members of his ministerial staff and several volunteers from FBC Daytona Beach who traveled to the clinic to lead teaching times and share personal testimonies. LifeWay also provided consultants for the clinic.
NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said the opportunity to host this year’s clinic was a blessing.
“It was a great honor and privilege for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to host the FAITH clinic on our campus,” Kelley said. “We want to do all we can to support and promote this highly effective method of equipping leaders to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandments through the local church and its ministries.
“And we are of course very proud of Bobby Welch, who is one of our outstanding alumni,” Kelley added. Welch received the seminary’s distinguished alumnus award in June 1998.
LifeWay has 80 FAITH clinics scheduled in 1999 in churches throughout North America and Hawaii. Though the NOBTS clinic environment was out of the ordinary, participants say the clinic was a success, giving them renewed passion for sharing their faith and enthusiasm to begin the program in their churches.
“Our kids are really burdened for their friends and are looking for a non-intimidating way to share the gospel,” said Rick Deerman, youth minister at Bethel Baptist Church, Odenville, Ala. Deerman said he was impressed with LifeWay’s new FAITH materials geared specifically for youth. These materials were on display for the first time during the New Orleans clinic.
Two Baptist officials whose responsibilities directly relate to evangelism in their state conventions also attended. “We are very committed to the program,” said Bailey Stone, evangelism coordinator for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. “Our desire is to see clinics set up first in churches as regional events and then to offer clinics in each association.”
Wayne Jenkins, evangelism director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said, “We feel very good about the program. We want to make it a major part of our strategy over the next five years.”
The clinic culminated in an evening of neighborhood evangelistic visitation March 11 in the greater New Orleans area. Twelve New Orleans area churches offered staff and laity to serve as volunteer drivers and took 116 teams of two into the streets of New Orleans and neighboring Slidell, spreading the gospel message.
After just two hours on the street, the teams returned to the NOBTS chapel for a time to share their experiences while going door-to-door. “Just one more visit” became the theme of the night as participants reported about souls who were saved and requested prayer for others who had closed the door to the gospel message.
“I just kept praying, ‘Lord, please let me share with a young person,’” Deerman said. “When that 15-year-old girl answered the door, I knew God was answering my prayer. Fifteen minutes later, that same girl was kneeling, asking Jesus into her heart. God has really renewed the passion for me personally to get back to sharing the gospel as we are called to do.”
Totals for the two hours of evangelistic visitation were:
— 1,018 opinion poll surveys attempted;
— 547 opinion poll surveys completed;
— 336 gospel presentations given;
— 60 individuals joined Sunday school classes; and
— 72 professions of faith, with all immediately linked to local churches for follow-up and discipleship.
Welch, in his book, “Evangelism Through the Sunday School,” explains the need for Christians to be the roadblocks Christ has called them to be:
“No one on the face of this earth ever has or ever will attempt to win souls to Christ except saved Christians who make up the local church. Regardless of what a church does, it must do soul-winning first because no one else will.”

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  • Joe David Smith