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Who would Jesus leave out? FAITH leader asks conference

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–“Think about drawing a circle. Inside the circle, write the groups of people you will try to reach through FAITH. Outside the circle, write the people you won’t try to reach. Now think as if Jesus were drawing the circle. Would he leave anyone outside the circle?”

Doug Williams, retired associate pastor of evangelism and education at First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, and currently a FAITH consultant for LifeWay Christian Resources, offered this challenge during the National FAITH Institute Jan. 10-13 at the Florida church.

Williams was on staff at the Daytona Beach church when the strategy that became FAITH was conceived. Now a member of First Baptist Church, Oneonta, Ala., he led an institute session on prayer and practice.

FAITH is a strategy combining evangelism and Sunday school. It has been introduced to Southern Baptists by LifeWay and is endorsed by the North American Mission Board.

“There are some people who will be outside some churches’ comfort zones,” Williams said. But “that doesn’t mean they are to be excluded from our ministry.”

He categorized those often excluded by churches as Left Outs, Drop Outs, Opt Outs and Locked Outs.

The Left Outs, Williams said, could include:
* Up and Outs — “People who make a lot more money than you do.”
* Down and Outs — “People who make a lot less money than you do.”
* Learning Disabled — “People who need some sort of special instruction to understand the gospel.”
* Physically Disabled — “People who may requiring facing accessibility issues,” such as the need for ramps or Braille literature.
* Socially Disabled — “People who have a hard time fitting in with other people on a social level.”

The Drop Outs are people who have been members or attendees of some church in previous years. “Their names are probably on some church roll somewhere,” Williams said.

Some drop out because their feelings got hurt, they did not receive needed ministry or were caught in a church conflict, Williams said.

The Opt Out group, he said, encompasses people who have made a “deliberate decision not to attend church.”

They could be the secular-minded who don’t see the need for church or the agnostic who doesn’t believe the existence of God can be proven, Williams said.

Another member of the Opt Out group is the pleasure seeker. “This person is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure (the lake, the golf course, etc.) every weekend. You will see them pulling their pleasure-seeker toys behind their cars,” he said.

Also, members of religious cults may be part of the Opt Out group. “They are the ones who have turned away from Christianity for their spiritual direction.”

The Locked Outs, Williams said, are “often the hardest to include in our circle of ministry” due to dramatic differences in moral values and lifestyles.

“Not all churches will have problems dealing with all these groups of people,” Williams said. “Some churches are very open to ministering to them in a loving and redemptive way.”

To minister effectively and reach out with the good news of the gospel requires Christians to get outside their comfort zones, Williams said.

“Think about Jesus drawing that circle and who he would leave out. You’re free to leave out anyone Jesus would.”

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  • Polly House