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
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
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.
“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
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
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
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,”
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
“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
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