Bob and Phyllis Foy have been on a journey together since they married at age 16.
So it is little wonder that they’ve designed their national ministry of church renewal as a journey, too.
The Foys are North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries and staff members of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, leading the national effort for church renewal through lay led events in individual churches.
Such “lay renewal weekends” have grown into a series of special emphasis, lay-led “church renewal weekends” that are part of a five-step process called “church renewal journey.”
“All of us have been in revival where the Lord has come in a powerful way,” Foy said. “Six weeks later we’re sitting in the pew praying for another revival.”
He said the journey is learning to reply back to God after He answers prayer, rather than sitting back down in the pew again.
The Foys, who virtually live out of a full size van, find and train coordinators for these weekends, and themselves coordinate a ministry that in the past 12 months has included 17 renewal weekends in seven states that each also includes overview presentation and volunteer training; did 16 other overviews for renewal weekends in the future and presented at 11 other meetings.
Each of the renewal weekends involves coordinating the participation of as many as 100-150 volunteers.
Lay volunteers from all over the country provide the personal firepower or “spark to the fuel” as Phyllis Foy says, in testimony and small group leadership to show local church members they have a gift to use in ministry.
The five weekends are:
- Lay Renewal. Volunteers testify to being awakened to ministry in their own lives and declare that “God may want to do more with you than sit in a pew.”
- Lay Ministry. If you’re awakened and excited, how do you find out how God has called you and equipped you for ministry?
- Marketplace Evangelism. Too often the church doesn’t know how to get its members involved as ministers in their daily marketplace, where they spend most of their time. Participants prayer walk their own marketplace and a Sunday night service commissions those who are willing to step out as missionaries in their workplaces. “We tell youth and adults you don’t go back Monday, you are sent back by your church expecting God to be at work,” Foy said. “On Monday one guy in Waxhaw witnessed to a woman he’d worked with for 15 years and by 9 a.m. had led her to the Lord.”
- Prayer. God is asked to empower the church for whatever is next. (Story, page 9) and to begin to reveal the specific ministry He has for the church.
- Acts 1:8. Volunteers emphasize Acts 1:8 and send people out to be on mission in their association, state, North America and internationally.
A church does not have to follow these weekends in order and it might take two years to do all five. A church should let its previous experience mature before adding the next.
Bob Foy became a Christian at age 12 and immediately began living and “working out of guilt and ‘oughtness.’”
He worked himself to burnout and by the time he was a young father and businessman he was worn thin with Christian service.
He always felt God’s hand on his life, but like so many he believed a “calling” was the exclusive domain of preachers and missionaries.
Then, during a lay renewal weekend when he was a young business owner, a heating and air conditioning contractor from another town testified about his “ministry” and for the first time Foy realized his sense of call was legitimate.
It took another layman to unleash his own potential.
The Foys carry that experience and conviction in their ministry: lay people speak into the lives of other lay people in a way sermons from a preacher never can.
Foy, 65, has been involved in lay renewal ever since: as a volunteer, coordinator, Mission Service Corps volunteer and now, national coordinator. “God is exploding this ministry in every way,” he said.
Each year Bob and Phyllis, who have no full-time administrative staff, wonder how they can possibly handle any more growth. Each year a volunteer arises to assume more responsibility or they find a way to be more efficient.
With a wifi phone card for his computer and with Phyllis doing all the driving, Bob makes calls and answers emails and gets more done on the road than in his brief stopovers at either his office in Cary or in Atlanta at the North American Mission Board.
“We always say, ‘What are we going to do next year if it keeps growing like it is?’ We don’t know what we’re going to do next year,” Foy said.
“We just have a passion to see churches on fire and getting a Kingdom vision,” Phyllis Foy said.
“There are lots of tools God can use. There is no doubt in my mind this is one of them. We never experience a bad renewal.”
God shows up at every one, Foy said, not at just the occasional event. He emphasizes to churches that neither he nor the volunteers “bring the Spirit,” they just “stir Him up.”
Foy said that a man from Second Baptist Church, Rutherfordton had gone to Russia on mission alone several times. After a renewal weekend at his church 20 people signed up to go with him on his next trip.
Every church ready
When asked what signs a church can look for to determine if it is ready for a lay renewal weekend, Foy said, “Every church is ready for it. I don’t care where you’re at.”
Why do volunteers come from all over the country at their own expense to spark the tinder in churches?
“When you’re where you’re supposed to be, doing what God called you to do, you can experience God’s pleasure, that’s why they come,” Foy said. “They see people’s eyes light up, feel the excitement of discovery. If you’ve ever been a part of that, you know Satan’s got nothing to compare.”
Commissioned as NAMB missionaries, 50 percent of Bob’s job is working throughout the U.S. and Canada.
His other half is renewal consultant for North Carolina. Phyllis also consults in church and community missions and is the unpaid state ministry evangelism consultant for North Carolina and the president of the national State Ministry Evangelism Fellowship.
Henry Bass is the state coordinator for church renewal in North Carolina.
The Foys, who have been married 49 years, have adult children who understand when they miss too many special family days with their nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren because the Foys “are on the mission field.”
Both Bob and Phyllis served North Carolina Baptists as first vice president of the Convention.
Bob was president during the 2003 annual meeting when President Jerry Pereria died three days before the meeting.
Both have been trustees of Campbell University and Phyllis is a past president of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina.
They are charter members of Trinity Baptist Church, a new church in Mooresville started in March as a traditional Southern Baptist church. Volunteers have already instituted Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action children’s mission education and action groups.
The church already has 200 members and is considering when to start another church.
Prayer walking neighborhood
During one renewal weekend volunteers could not prayer walk a neighborhood because the houses sat too close to a busy, dangerous road. So they stood on the back porch of one house and prayed for occupants of the houses they could see from there. Unknown at the time, in one of the houses lived a woman who had dropped out of that church years earlier. That afternoon the woman came to the house where volunteers had prayed and said she had dropped out of church over a trivial something and asked if she would be welcomed to return.
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