Celebrating the Years of FAITH

Feb 07, 2003 06:02 PM EST

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - More than 400 people gathered at the First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach Florida to celebrate the fifth year anniversary of the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy.

Since 1998, more than 350 FAITH training clinics have been held, with over 4,200 participants. Originally a group of merely 28 churches administering the classes, the FAITH initiative have grown to an astounding 6,824 churches by the end of 2002.

Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist church and Doug Williams, retired minister of evangelism at the church are the co-creators of FAITH and the authors of Evangelism Through the Sunday School: A Journey of FAITH." FAITH was birthed at their church in Daytona.

Participants in Faith, grouped into three per team, partake in classes for 16 weeks, where they learn how to share their faith with non-Christians and Christians alike. These teams go door to door and gather information of where Sunday school classes should be held according to the needs of the respondents.

FAITH has also spread to international ministries. Most notably, a Spanish language ministry clinic, Por Fe, has been integrated with the FAITH initiative. The nine Por Fe participants represented congregations in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Paraguay, Mexico, as well as a Spanish-language congregation in New York. Clinics have also been held in Germany, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Ecuador and Venezuela.

FAITH leaders say the success of FAITH have been in the leadership of the pastor. Because of this, a church cannot partake in FAITH apart from the pastor.

Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., said, "I have a great staff, but, you know what, my people will be involved [in FAITH] a lot more because I'm doing it. If they know they can come to a class that I'm teaching and that I'll be leading a FAITH team myself, they will follow me."

Gene Mims, vice president of LifeWay's church resources division, spoke to the group during a commissioning service for the new FAITH pastors. He challenged the new FAITH pastors to carry on the baton of FAITH, remembering to always move forward in the Sunday School evangelism strategy.

"It's been 30 years since there's been an outpouring of God's Spirit in this country in a great and powerful way," he said.

"Where is the supernatural manifestation of God's Spirit among us? It's not our faith that's the problem; it's a lack of faith that prevents God from doing great and wonderful things among us," Mims said.

"Do you have any unbelief in your heart tonight? We're locked and lost in our traditions, trying to do the best we can," he said.

"We've probably trained a quarter of a million people in FAITH through our churches in the past five years, but that's not enough," Mims said. "We've probably seen hundreds of thousands of people come to know Christ, but that's not enough."

Major General William G. Boykin, commanding general of the U.S. Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, said, "Anyone who puts on the armor of God becomes a target for Satan. Be ready. He will be coming. He'll try to stop you from doing what God wants you to do. But you knew that already.

"When you stepped into the FAITH arena, you said, 'Here am I. Send me.' Not every Christian is a soul-winner, but you said, 'Here am I. Send me.' You volunteered to be a part of this battle.

"When you took that step into the FAITH ministry and made that commitment, God had a plan for you. He has the plan and your job is to stay faithful and to get up every day and put on that armor. Endure and wait to see what God has for you in this life. Endure!"

Emerson Wiles, pastor of Miliani Baptist Church in Honolulu noted the extraordinary influence FAITH has had on his ministry in the 4 years of its implementation.

"This isn't the Bible belt, people. This is Hawaii! We've just started our ninth semester of FAITH," he said.

Wiles said all the Miliani deacons are either FAITH-trained or currently going through; the Sunday school teachers are all FAITH trained as well.

"Our church knows that Tuesday is about FAITH," he said. "That's all we do. Our people know that if they die and want their funeral on Tuesday, it better be between FAITH semesters!"

Wiles continued, "We want people to come to know the Lord, not just Miliani Baptist Church."

Mark Anderson, pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., was a FAITH originator pastor at First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau, Montana. Anderson reminded institute participants that when they are doing FAITH, struggles will come.

As you would in a marriage, he said, when you get tire and want to quit, "go down memory lane. When troubled times come, it helps to go back to when love was fresh. Remember ... remember ... remember. Walk down memory lane. Paul told Timothy to remember Jesus Christ."

On the last night of the convention, the newly trained FAITH participants went out into the Daytona Beach area, together with FAITH veterans, to share their faith. Afterwards, the 128 teams returned to report about their visit.

There were 79 professions of faith, and 294 new prospects for their Sunday School. The six teams form the Por Fe clinic also heard 9 professions of faith and 50 prospects for FAITH study.

Welch said that in spite of what pollsters say about visitation not working anymore, the FAITH strategy does work.

"We have absolutely no record, none, not one, of FAITH failing when two things happen. One, the pastor leads the way. Two, when the FAITH formula you learn at the clinic is used.

"If you are looking for a certain kind of people, who look a certain kind of way, who dress a certain kind of way, who drive a certain kind of car, you might not want to do what we've done here," he cautioned. "But if you want to just cast out your net and catch anyone who comes in, this will work."

Shelby Smith, director of LifeWay's FAITH Sunday School ministry department closed the meeting with the challenge, "You will never experience in the pew what you'll find out there in the field. Now, go and change the world."

By Pauline C.