Care for lost souls urged among 'people who are going to heaven'

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)--"All the people who are going to hell either don't know or don't care. The bad part is that a lot of the people who are going to heaven don't care either," Gene Mims said.

Mims, vice president for LifeWay Christian Resources' church resources division, praised the 222 people who had come to be trained in FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy as being people who care about what happens to those who don't know the Lord.

He spoke to participants during the opening session of the National FAITH Institute at First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Fla., Jan. 28-31.

Encouraging the group to not be discouraged by the size of the task of sharing the gospel with unbelievers everywhere, Mims said, "There are six and a half billion people in the world. There aren't enough people in this room to reach all of them. That's a fact. But, you know what? There are enough of us here to make a start."

National institute participants chose one of three tracks -- a basic track taught in English for those who had never been through FAITH training; a Spanish-language "Por Fe" track, also for those who had never been through FAITH training; and a veteran track for pastors who already had led their churches in FAITH.

The heart of the FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy is its connection with a church's Sunday School and developing Great Commission Christians. FAITH members work in groups of three to share their faith and present the plan of salvation to people. When people are won to Christ, enrolled in Sunday School or invited to church, they enter the church fellowship through an age-appropriate Sunday School class.

Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Ga., stressed the practicality of the FAITH strategy that brings people into the church through Sunday School.

"If people come into the church through the Sunday School, there's an automatic association with a small group. If someone comes in and just connects through the worship service, no matter how good it is, they probably won't last more than about six months because there just isn't that intimate connection," he said.

While the FAITH plan is simple, it is also direct, requiring a listener to make a decision. Mike Boyd, pastor of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., challenged institute participants to make their communication intentional.

He said, "Think about it. People have to hear the truth. How do you see people? Do you see them in the way the world sees them or do you see them as God sees them? God has a plan for everyone."

Speaking directly to the pastors, Boyd said, "We've got to stop deciding for our people what God wants them know. We've got to let God tell them what he wants them to know."

The sixth Spanish-language FAITH clinic, Por Fe, had 10 participants, representing Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela and the United States.

Sergio Arce, associate pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church and pastor of Immanuel Baptist Hispanic Mission in Salisbury, Md., who led the Por Fe clinic, said he is a believer in FAITH.

"The FAITH strategy is great," he said. "I'm seeing people changed.

"In my church, our people were a little disappointed that during our first semester of visits none of the people we visited made a profession of faith, but the seeds were planted. The next semester, though, we began seeing fruit from those visits," he said.

"But also during our first semester of FAITH, our team members were leading family members and co-workers to the Lord. They did all this on their own time. It was real lifestyle evangelism," he said.

Carlos Cobos, event coordinator in LifeWay's Sunday School/FAITH ministry department, said, "We are getting a group of Spanish-speaking leaders now who are committed to training others in FAITH."

Cobos said that while at this point no clinics are being planned in languages other than English and Spanish, he knew of several Chinese-speaking pastors who have been trained and are taking FAITH back to their churches.

Guy Sanders, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in New Port Richey, Fla., and a clinic teacher, said he has no doubt that FAITH works. "People are being saved. They are coming back to Sunday School. We've discovered over the decades that if you don't get someone plugged into a small group, in 6-18 months, they're gone."

He said he remembered hearing someone say once, "'We need to get out of the book of numbers and get into the book of acts.' FAITH lets us do that."

First Baptist Pastor Bobby Welch introduced William G. Boykin, commanding general of the U.S. Army's Special Forces unit, who spoke to the FAITH participants, as well as to church members and locals from the Daytona Beach area.

Welch, who was a member of Special Forces himself, said he was honored to call Boykin not only a friend, but a brother in Christ.

"He is a strong, dynamic Christian man who loves the Lord," Welch said.

Boykin held the audience's attention with stories of how God had provided not only spiritual guidance for him, but protection for his men during dangerous missions around the world.

He said the current war on terrorism is "not a war that will be won with guns. It will be won on our knees."

Two more National FAITH Institutes will be held this year: at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison, Texas, April 22-25, and at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., July 15-18. Since 1998, 28,296 individuals and 7,880 churches have been trained in FAITH.

FAITH originated at First Baptist, Daytona Beach, and has been introduced to Southern Baptists by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. FAITH is endorsed by the North American Mission Board.

First Baptist pastor Bobby Welch and then-FBC staff member Doug Williams introduced FAITH as a Sunday School evangelism strategy to First Baptist in 1985 to help bolster the church's Sunday School enrollment. In 1998, LifeWay partnered with FBC in developing materials and launching a national training plan.


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SERGIO ARCE.

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