Published July 25, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE — Jim Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, came to the Atlanta area from Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, TX just over a year ago.
Jim and his wife, Laura, were welcomed not only by the congregation of First Baptist, but by FBC member/realtor Tonya Jones who arranged for the Thomases to be featured on HGTV’s “House Hunters” as they looked for a house to buy in Fayetteville.
Thomas commented, “I was nervous, because you never know how these shows may be put together and was wondering if anything would get twisted around to make us look different. All of us were pleased with the outcome.”
At 44 years of age Thomas brought to the Fayetteville congregation many sterling qualities, but among them a genuine heart for missions.
Thomas’ passion for missions was inspired at least in part by Jairo Campos, a young Brazilian student at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, TX who brought to his attention the spiritual need and receptivity of the people of south Brazil.
As Thomas listened to Campos and read about the openness of the people in the Southern Hemisphere to the Gospel, his heart began to burn for the people in South America, and particularly in south Brazil.
One book Thomas read was “The New Shape of World Christianity” by Mark A. Noll, who reveals that the landscape of world Christianity is drastically changing. He specifies, “In 1900 over 80 percent of the world Christian population was Caucasian and over 70 percent resided in Europe.
“But today – when active Christian adherence has become stronger in Africa than in Europe, when the number of practicing Christians in China may be approaching the number in the United States, when live bodies in church are far more numerous in Kenya than in Canada – there is a pressing need for new historical perspectives that explore the new world situation.”
Another book that influenced Thomas was “The Next Christendom” by Philip Jenkins. Jenkins quotes Philip Yancey, who said, “As I travel, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God ‘moving’ geographically from the Middle East to Europe, to North America, to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where He’s wanted.”
Jenkins contends that Christianity is “doing very well in the global south – not just surviving, but expanding.” In his book he specifies Brazil as one of those strategic countries in the global south that is a prime target for a great movement of God.
Thomas has led First Baptist to connect with Campos and his ministry called Project 70.
Campos grew up in Brazil, received his medical degree in surgery, and then felt God’s call to ministry and to attend SWBTS. He then sensed God’s call to develop a church planting partnership (P-70) to establish indigenous Baptist churches in southern Brazil in the Baptist association of the state of Minas Gerias.
Minas Gerias is one of 26 states in Brazil, ranks as the second most populous, and has emerged as one of the largest economic forces in Brazil because of its great economic potential. To date P-70 has started over 20 churches and a Baptist seminary in Minas Gerias.
Thomas is linking up with Campos to lead his church to expand the reach of P-70 by planting churches in the state of Santa Catarina, the Brazilian state with over six million people and an even higher economic well-being than Minas Gerias. However, Thomas insists that the most remarkable thing about south Brazil is that God is mightily at work there.
In a recent mission trip to Santa Catarina, a pioneer state regarding missions activity, the team from Fayetteville saw almost 500 people come to faith in Christ as they ministered in just two towns. Thomas and his team were also able to help dedicate a new Baptist church in the town of Irineopolis.
Thomas explained, “There are 80 Baptist churches in the state of Santa Catarina, but 60 of them are in the capitol city of Florianopolis. However, the door in this Brazilian state is wide open. We took 32 members from our church to be missionaries and they were significantly impacted by the experience. It was wonderful to hear their testimonies about how they led people to Christ.”
Thomas added, “God is doing an amazing work in southern Brazil and I would love to see Georgia Baptist churches partner with P-70 to plant indigenous churches in South Brazil.
The Fayetteville pastor added, “First, those who resolve to go to this mission field will become aware of the movement of God. It is evident that God is at work there. Henry Blackaby has told us that we need to find out where God is working and join Him. God is at work in South Brazil.
“Secondly, we found that the people in Santa Catarina are incredibly open to the Bible. There is a hunger for God’s truth there. The unsearchable riches of Christ that we take for granted here is an unfathomable treasure to them.
“Finally, the potential for a partnership with Project 70 is marvelously available. The best thing is that the people from our church who were involved on the trip came back in awe of God.”
Contact Jim Thomas at FBC Fayetteville for more information about partnering with Project 70 in south Brazil.
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