Thursday, March 6, 2003

Local church takes on world

By Jon Gambrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Wash Pennington (left) and pressman Larry Cook watch the day's first run of tracts in the pressroom Tuesday at The Fellowship Tract League in South Lebanon.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
MORROW - For 25 years, Fellowship Baptist Church has been spreading its message around the globe from southern Warren County through religious tracts.

Starting in a single room in a church basement, the Fellowship Tract League expanded into its own facility and says it has produced more than 2.4 billion religious tracts in 60-plus languages.

Wash Pennington, pastor of Fellowship Baptist, said the idea for a tract campaign came to him from reading the Bible. "We were finding verses to bring the Gospel to the whole world," said Pennington, a former highway construction worker.

Pennington cited prayer and Bible reading as key in operation. Since 1984, a group of men has been meeting regularly in a small room devoted to study to begin the day with 30 minutes of Bible reading and prayer. "We've gone through the Bible 26 times," he said. "Each man reads a chapter."

"This is the No. 1 reason we are here, through consistent prayer and Bible reading. We are commanded to take the Gospel to the people."

Supported by offerings of Fellowship Baptist members, the tract league also receives donations from other churches.

The league has two three-color presses and production averages about 125,000 tracts per hour.

The operation buys paper in bulk; two large rolls cost roughly $400 . "Paper is the gasoline that runs us," Pennington said. "Without paper, we can't run. By the grace of God, He always supplies paper."

The Tuesday operation incorporates between 30 to 50 volunteers, with 15 full-time staff members at the league.

The league uses translation services and missionaries to produce its tracts in languages as varied as Albanian to the Zambian language Bemba .

Off to the side in one of the rooms is a large map of Russia. Immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, the league distributed numerous tracts and doctrine books there.

During the Gulf War, the league sent tracts to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Right now, the league is focusing attention on central and southern Africa.

Peter Williams, acting chairman of the comparative religion department at Miami University, said tracts fit into the evangelistic Protestants' imperative to spread the word and actively promote their faith.

Starting at the beginning of the 19th century, evangelistic Protestants formed societies for temperance and against Sunday mail delivery, and started an organization called the American Tract Society.

The society published 5 million tracts, books and magazines.

"The history of print media for evangelism is two centuries old," Williams said.

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