Welch: MBC moving aggressively with SBC’s evangelism initiative
By Allen Palmeri
September 28, 2004
LEBANON – When he heard that the Missouri Baptist Convention has started to take ownership of the goal of witnessing, winning and baptizing one million people in one year, Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch could not contain his enthusiasm Sept. 23 along Missouri Highway 5 as his national bus tour wound its way toward First Baptist Church, Lebanon.
MBC State Evangelism Director Bob Caldwell told Welch that Missouri Baptists want to go from 13,000 baptisms last year to 26,000. Getting 10,000 people to pray for revival, spiritual awakening and that specific number of souls is Caldwell’s goal. Welch was quick to affirm him.
“Somehow we have to get it down to where we can speak to the individual, and that’s what you’re doing,” Welch told Caldwell, who was one of eight Missouri Baptist leaders riding the bus with the SBC president as they talked about Missouri’s role in “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign.
MBC Associate Executive Director Kenny Qualls, who led the Missouri delegation and had the honor of praying for Welch on the bus, talked about the encounter as if it was pure gold.
“It’s obvious that Bobby Welch’s message and Bobby Welch’s model go hand in hand,” Qualls said. “He has a heart and a passion to see our Lord’s heaven filled with souls, and I know that reflects David Clippard’s passion and the passion of our convention.
“It was just a wonderful visit, hearing his heart. Bobby Welch is just a down-to-earth guy who’s a born-again believer who has a heart for souls. We’re blessed to have him as our president. We need to really continue to lift him up in prayer.”
Caldwell did just that at the end of the meeting Sept. 23. Dozens of Missouri Baptists came to the altar and prayed for spiritual and physical blessings on the SBC president and his crew as they embarked on the western half of their journey. Welch called it “a precious thing” when Qualls gave him a replica of the Gateway Arch as a gift from the MBC. He said he and his wife, Maudellen, attended their first Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis and took a trip to the top of the arch on that occasion.
Welch told the Missouri delegation that he will turn the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn., into “more of a people’s convention” by doing such things as getting a bivocational pastor on the platform along with two younger pastors and a divorced mother of two. He also plans to baptize new converts at every session.
“I mean if we’re going to talk about baptizing a million, let’s see it!” Welch said.
When he went on to explain that his plans include moving to Nashville in the spring to coordinate a major evangelism emphasis leading up to the official kickoff of the million-baptism campaign in June, Mitch Jackson, first vice president of the MBC, asked if that meant he was taking the whole year off as pastor of his church, First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla.?
“Pretty much,” Welch admitted, explaining that his fellow pastor at the church, David Cox, is equipped to shoulder the burden of shepherding the 4,200-member congregation. He also explained, as he has throughout the trip, that the church which he has pastored for 30 years deeply loves him and has sent him out on a mission.
Welch has become the point man calling all Southern Baptists to focus on six things: training and equipping in evangelism; witnessing and winning through visitation; baptizing new converts; applying biblical teaching on stewardship; helping with Vacation Bible School; and starting new Sunday School classes and/or new churches. If Southern Baptists will execute these fundamentals, Welch said, God will move.
“My quest is to try and get this convention to bring its muscles together and move them at the same time for the same purpose—a unity of purpose where we’re all moving at the same time with this tremendous muscle we have spiritually,” Welch said. “We would thereby create that spiritual synergy to do more than would be possible for just a few of us to do. That’s muscle. We can do that.”
Gary Longenecker, pastor, First Lebanon, estimated that about 250 people came to the church to join Welch for visitation. About 200 visits were made and five people prayed to receive Christ.
“Bobby’s a very humble man,” Longenecker said. “This is the third time he’s been here. Bobby shared with me he felt that God was leading him to challenge our convention to get back on track in evangelism. We prayed about it in my office on our knees maybe three years ago.”
In addition to Caldwell, Qualls and Jackson, other members of the MBC delegation riding with Welch on his colorful bus included Connie Urich, MBC recording secretary; Gary Urich, pastor, Southern Hills Baptist Church, Bolivar; Ken Mercer, MBC adult/discipleship specialist; and Don Hinkle, editor of The Pathway.
Southern Baptists in Missouri face unique challenges in the form of an ongoing legal battle with five breakaway agencies and the existence of a second, much smaller state convention. These matters were barely mentioned during the meeting/dialogue between MBC leaders and Welch, who spoke directly to the main issue at hand.
“God will bless if you keep the right focus,” he said.