By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md—John Faris, former Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network director of finance and development died on Dec. 29 in North Carolina. Faris served the Network for 20 years, ministering alongside former executive directors Ken Lyle, Charles Barnes and David Lee before his retirement in 2008.
Faris was the first to serve exclusively as full-time treasurer of the convention. In the past, executive directors also did the work of the treasurer. Faris served on the leadership team, and oversaw the Baptist Foundation, supervised the work at Skycroft Training Center, promoted the Cooperative Program and served Network churches as a consultant regarding their financial and stewardship needs.
Cooperative Program, State Missions Offering and Skycroft funds steadily rose over the two decades Faris served. Under his oversight, the Baptist Foundation grew from 3.8 to 10 million dollars and distributed $6 million dollars to Baptist causes in Maryland and Delaware.
Faris’ tenure was marked with an extensive church planting fervor and Faris was pleased to have helped undergird the sweeping church planting movement through three capital campaigns, Advancing Christ’s Kingdom, Legacy of Faith and Embrace Baltimore.
He also worked with local churches to help them develop “Capture the Vision” capital campaigns assisting 45 churches raise $13 million dollars for purchasing new facilities, land, or remodeling.
In addition to his financial ministry Faris ministered with the Network as a leader in international partnership missions. He served with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board as a missionary in Rwanda and later led the Network in ministering in Rwanda. Faris also led the Network in ministry in Latvia as well as being active in all of the Network’s partnership missions through the years.
David Jackson, former Network church planting strategist, said, “We lost a great Christian servant this week. John Faris was my colleague and friend at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware from my beginning there in 2001 to his retirement. He was a wise and gentle leader; a supporter of church planting and a friend of our family. He was an amazing financial steward, a capable forecaster of future trends, and an encourager who saw the big picture of Kingdom impact, far beyond the numbers and dollar signs on a piece of paper. He served the Lord and the churches of Maryland and Delaware…and we were all the better for it. Heaven’s gain is our loss!”
In an article written by Iris White when Faris retired, Faris is quoted, “Thanks for allowing us to see God at work in the lives of our churches and in your lives. And thanks for being a friend when we needed one. Paul says it best in Philippians 1:3-11, as he prays for his brothers and sisters in Christ, expresses joy in their partnership in the gospel, speaks of his longing for continued fellowship with them and exhorts them to love one another more and to discern what is right so that God might get the glory. This, too, is my prayer for all of you.”
Recently retired Network Center Coordinator Roy Thomas, who served with Faris from 1989 through Faris’ retirement said Faris played an important role in his life and that of the convention’s. “John brought a sense of vision and mission to all he did at the BCMD. With a depth of background and experience in multiple disciplines, he excelled in his responsibilities for financial planning, mission partnerships, capital campaigns or daily oversight of the convention’s operations. He was a capable administrator, minister of the Gospel, and a good friend. He will be greatly missed.”
Tom Stolle, current Network CFO and Baptist Foundation of Maryland/Delaware Director and Treasurer said, “John was a good friend. He was a man of vision, seeking out ways to help the Kingdom work in our region expand and thrive. Serving alongside him also gave me the opportunity to see his servant heart in action. John made time to routinely serve our churches. He was always willing to lend a helping hand or share an encouraging word. He was loved and respected by many. He truly left a legacy in Maryland/Delaware.”
Faris is survived by his wife, Deborah, their son, John L. Faris, III (Leah); daughters, Emma Faris Zhang (Clarence), Sarah Ann Cole (Jeff); brothers, William Lee Faris, Rhea A. Faris and nine grandchildren.
A memorial service was held on Jan. 2 at First Baptist Church of North Myrtle Beach.