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FAITH assists Oneonta Baptists as they witnesscomment (0)

September 7, 2006

By Sondra Washington

A Sunday School program that averaged only 75 people eight years ago now attracts about 325 people each week to Union Hill Baptist Church, Oneonta, in Friendship Baptist Association. 
Pastor Bill Barnett and other members attribute the growth to the church’s FAITH evangelism strategy.
“We wanted to help fulfill the Great Commission and we heard about FAITH,” Barnett said.
The FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy is a program offered by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In a series of training sessions, church members participating in FAITH learn highly effective ways to reach others through Sunday School.
In 1998, Barnett attended a FAITH training session at Lakeview Baptist Church, Auburn, in Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association, and two of his church members went to a session a few months later. 
The FAITH strategy has been taught at Union Hill Baptist ever since, and the church currently has its largest participation ever, from teenagers to senior adults.
“FAITH is more than evangelism. It is one of the strongest discipleship tools we have,” Barnett said. “Some of the greatest results of FAITH have been in the lives of those who participate. I have had members who have been in the church for decades and have never led anyone to Christ and now are faithful witnesses every Sunday.”
Seth Vick, who has been involved with Union Hill’s FAITH program since it began, has seen this change in his own life. 
“It’s helped me [share the gospel] because it gives you a reason to [visit] and an easy outline to go by when you are there. It’s made me realize there are a lot of lost and hurt people out there that need the Lord. There is a lot of need out there for what FAITH does.”
Mike James noticed the change in his daughter’s life. She was trained in FAITH years ago, and watching it work in her life inspired him to get involved.
“The process of FAITH takes regular folks who are afraid to share the gospel and makes them Great Commission Christians,” said James, who currently leads Union Hill’s FAITH ministry. 
“You have somebody to take you by the hand, and they go out and demonstrate how to share your testimony and tell people what Jesus has done for them in their life,” he said. “It’s just a comfortable way to move from being a bystander to someone who is actively sharing their testimony on a daily basis.”
Daniel Edmonds, director of the office of Sunday School for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said that many churches have responded since the SBC’s FAITH program was launched in 1998. 
“We became one of the fastest-growing states for churches trained in the FAITH strategy (and) have nearly 750 churches trained now,” he said. 
Edmonds added that congregations of any size should try to understand how Sunday School, outreach and evangelism training work together to build a church.
“I think Union Hill is in some ways very unique,” he said. “It started as a fairly small church and now is blossoming. It’s a picture of what was the typical church, but then they rolled up their sleeves and went to work, and God has just done a wonderful thing in their midst.”
Barnett noted that FAITH is a great assimilation tool. 
“It helps us close the back door of the church by partnering with Sunday School classes,” he said. “What we find is that a lot of our new members come to join FAITH because they were visited by a FAITH team, and they realize what it meant to them. The purpose is to help them get from their house to God’s house, and FAITH with Sunday School is a perfect tool for that. We are seeing people saved each semester.”
Barnett encourages other churches to institute the FAITH process. 
We are going to do this until Jesus comes,” he said. “My desire is that what God has done here, He will do in other places because every church needs to grow and we need help in doing that. This mobilizes our people and trains them to do evangelism. It has been a real blessing for our church.”
The next Alabama Baptist FAITH training clinic will be offered Nov. 6–9 at Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Leeds, St. Clair Baptist Association.

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