Church renewal keeps people from sitting down
    January 12 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    Don Taft believes the best person to challenge people in the pew to find and use their spiritual gifts for service is another person in the pew.

    Taft and his wife, Anita, have been active in lay renewal (now called church renewal) for 35 years — since Baptists adopted the Methodist innovation — and have participated in more than 100 renewal weekends around the nation.

    When the Tafts, members of Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church in Charlotte, were honored by Wingate University last April during the Baptist Heritage Awards, their comments lauding them almost became more about their renewal involvement than about their long service to Wingate.

    One of the earliest lay renewal enthusiasts in North Carolina Baptist life, Don Taft, who retired in 1994 as a manager and internal consultant at chemical company Hoechst-Celanese, has been traveling with church renewal since about 1975. He encourages Christians to live their faith like they wear their skin.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Don and Anita Taft of Charlotte have participated in more than 100 church renewal weekends.

    “If we could motivate Christians to look at faith as a life issue and not as something you do on Sunday morning they’d be taking their faith into the market place,” Taft said. “I worship God with my life, talents and skills and give it back to Him. So when renewal came along, that’s where I found my home.”

    In the early 1970s Taft was given a brochure celebrating 1,000 lay renewals conducted through the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board. Yet, Taft said, he had never heard of it. Today he and Anita do as many as eight a year.

    Church renewal events bring a team of volunteers assembled from across the country to a church with an organized weekend of activities, prayer and teaching. Volunteers share the blessings that come from a life committed to finding the ministry God has prepared you for and getting involved in it.

    While there are five specific weekend emphases, a church can elect to participate in one or any of them. Ideally, a church on the path to renewal through this process will start with a weekend event that emphasizes to every church member God desires to use them in the world.

    A second weekend, which would occur nine months to a year later, helps members discover how God has molded, shaped and prepared them for partnership with Him in ministry. The majority of time is spent on discerning your spiritual gifts.

    When the church is ready, usually in another year or so, a third weekend encourages Christians to take what they’ve learned into their marketplace during the week. “Don’t quit your job to do ministry,” Taft said. “Take your faith with you.”

    Often the church commissions those who commit to becoming a marketplace Christian.

    Don, a vigorous 70 year old who leans to the edge of his chair when speaking, has given up the task of coordinating events and teaches only.

    Anita is a team member who once was reluctant to speak, but who long ago found her voice.

    “I had prayed about how God might use me and He showed me Matt. 10:19-20 that says don’t worry about what you will say because when the time comes, God will give you the words,” she said. “I hung onto that scripture,” she said and on the first night of their first weekend she took the microphone first.

    “Lay renewal has been the center of our spiritual growth,” she said. 

    According to Taft, the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) stopped promoting lay renewal in the 1980s and the movement wound down among Baptists except in North Carolina where N.C. Baptist Men kept it as a ministry. Then former NAMB President Bob Reccord recognized there was so much good going on with it that NAMB picked it back up. Today, NAMB missionaries Bob and Phyllis Foy coordinate church renewal nationally, jointly supported by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

    While Taft has been involved in over 100 weekend events since 1975, he said, “It’s not about the numbers; it’s about being faithful to what God is trying to do through you.”

    Don Taft said sometimes pastors get upset to hear their members say after a church renewal weekend that they’ve “never heard that before,” because the pastor has been trying to encourage them all along to use their ministry gifts.

    Taft said the difference is “pew to pew communication, not pulpit to pew.”

    “It’s not theoretical when a lay person says it and lives it,” he said.

    Taft is “buried” in service to Pritchard, for many years a leader among North Carolina Baptists in active local ministry. He teaches Sunday school, sings in the choir, chaired the pastor search committee and is leading the EPOCH committee, which is “exploring the possibilities in Christ.”

    Pritchard is on seven prime acres on the south edge of Charlotte proper and the EPOCH Committee is researching possibilities to utilize the property in ways that can provide resources for physical plant improvements.

    A 1961 physics and math graduate of Penn State University, Taft is the kind of man who says “you don’t have to be a non-believer to be a scientist.”

    “Church isn’t something I fit into my schedule. It is my life. I worship God with my life, not on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. only,” he said.

    Marty Dupree, who leads personal evangelism for the Baptist State Convention, told Taft they make a good team.

    “I’m on the outside, saying, ‘Ya’ll come,’” Dupree told him. “You’re on the inside saying, ‘Wait a minute, don’t sit down. This is not the end, it’s the beginning.’”

    “My job is to keep people from sitting down,” Taft said. 
    1/12/2010 11:04:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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