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Son’s evangelistic thrust garners dad as a coworker

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–In a different twist to the “Like father, like son” story, Doug Tester and his father, Gene, have become coworkers through the FAITH Sunday School/evangelism strategy.

Doug Tester, in June 2002, became pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Eustis, Fla., a growing town of about 20,000 people.

“When I got here, we’d run between 25 or 30 people on Sunday morning,” Doug said. Now, less than two years later, the church has tripled in size as a result of its members’ involvement in FAITH.

The Sunday School/evangelism strategy was originated by Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., and is now sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and endorsed by the North American Mission Board.

Doug’s introduction to FAITH came in 1999 at Mint Hill Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., where he and his wife were members. “I went into FAITH as a skeptic,” he recounted. “I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, just another evangelism program,’ but I did it because I knew evangelism was important and I wanted to support my pastor.”

What Doug saw, though, was that FAITH worked. “What I think makes FAITH work and what makes it different,” he said, “is the way it fully integrates people into the church through the Sunday School.”

Doug had completed two semesters of FAITH when Grace Baptist Church called him as pastor — with the intent to begin FAITH training because its members had seen it succeed in other small churches.

Doug told his father, Gene, about the church’s unfolding involvement with FAITH. At the time, Gene was pastor of Freedom Baptist Church in St. Augustine, Fla., about an hour away.

“I had been knocking on doors for the 30 years I’d been a pastor,” Gene said. “But I had always invited people to church, not Sunday School. This idea of involving them through Sunday School intrigued me. I knew that if you got people in Sunday School about 95 percent of them would wind up in church, so this made sense.”

Gene decided to assist his son at Grace Baptist, driving there every Monday night to join in one of the FAITH teams. Soon, he and Doug realized they were meant to work together.

Gene resigned from his church, moved to Eustis and joined Grace in June 2003.

Doug was thrilled. “My dad has always been my best friend,” he said. “I’d always been so proud of him and his ministry. It was an encouragement to me to have him come work alongside me.”

Gene echoed the sentiment. “You hear about sons learning from their fathers, but I have learned so much from Doug. It’s a joy to watch him lead this church.”

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