SBC president challenges Missouri Baptists to help ‘Witness, Win, Baptize ONE MILLION!’
By Norm Miller
November 9, 2004
RAYTOWN — Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch lived up to his personal commitment to be a “Johhny One-note” as he addressed the 170th gathering of the Missouri Baptist Pastors’ Conference at First Baptist Church, Raytown, Oct. 25.
While on his recent 25-day tour that reached every state, Welch concluded each sermon by displaying a mule bridle with blinders. The blinders, he said, were to keep him on the sole course of awakening Southern Baptists to a 4-year decline in baptisms and to encourage them to do something about it. He told each crowd he’d be “Johnny One-note” for the duration of his SBC presidency, singing only one song whose only note was evangelism that led to baptisms.
Before his sermon, Welch, the 30-year pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., thanked Missouri Southern Baptists for the relief they offered to hurricane-stricken Florida: “Missouri has had a giant footprint on the state of Florida in helping us during all this time of disaster down there,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the good help from folks like ya’ll, I don’t know what in the world we would’ve done.
“I’m here to say on behalf of John Sullivan (executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention) and all those preachers and folks in Florida: We thank you very much.”
A hard-hitting, fast-paced, 90-second video then preceded Welch’s sermon. Drawn from the last 10 years or so, still- and live-action shots in the video depicted numerous tragedies and their associated personalities. Hundreds of images drove home the point that the world is a dangerous place, and life can be snuffed out in a moment.
After the video, Welch read Ps. 142.4: “I looked on my right hand and beheld there was no man – no person – that would know me. Refuge failed me. And no man – no person – cared for my soul.”
Welch recalled the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, and those who jumped from the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The Psalmist declared there was none to care for his soul, and Welch wondered who cared for the souls of those who plunged into eternity Sept. 11, 2001.
“Where did their souls go?” Welch asked the crowd. “Did anyone care enough about any of those people to stop long enough and tell them how much Christ loved them, and that He died and gave himself for them that they might be saved?”
Referring to his text, Welch drew attention to three points evident to him. The Psalmist was someone “searching and looking for some help,” said Welch. “The truth of it is today that, we must hear the call of these people out here in the world.”
There are searching people all over the world, in neighborhoods, church fields, and among friends and family members, said Welch. “People are searching for something more in life.”
Welch said a journalist representing Ladies’ Home Journal called him sharing results from a survey that revealed 29 million people who said they believed in God and the Bible, and weren’t atheists. Survey respondents also said they do not and would not attend any synagogue, temple or church.
Welch said the respondents also had a syncretistic religious practice. Taking bits and pieces from a broad range of the world’s religions, “they’re putting together their own tailor-made religion,” Welch said.
When asked by the journalist why the modern Christian church can’t seem to reach these 29 million, Welch said the problem is the church has “left the bridge-building business and is in the fort-building business.”
Rather than build the church’s walls higher and thicker, and placing a lock on the gate to which only members have the key, Welch said Southern Baptists must build bridges so as to reach people who don’t know Jesus Christ. “We must not fail to hear the call of this lost world out there,” he said.
The SBC, its pastors and people must “wake up to the lostness of the world,” Welch said amid rising applause.
“Don’t worry about a convention perishing,” said Welch in crescendo-like fashion. “Worry about your sons and daughters perishing; worry about your brothers and sisters perishing; worry about your mothers and daddies, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents, your next-door neighbors, the people you work with. Worry about everyone who does not know the glorious mercy and grace of God to save them out of hell all the way into heaven. That’s what we need to be worried about.”
Welch said someone had asked him if he were afraid that others who don’t believe exactly as he does would begin their own evangelism efforts.
“I’m not near as worried about too many going soul-winning as I am so many so-called evangelicals who’ve quit giving an open invitation, who’ve quit training and equipping their people to go soul-winning, and who’ve quit leading them out there to reach people for Christ while their own family members are dying and going to hell without Jesus,” Welch said.
Southern Baptists need to get their “ear back to the heart of God” and to the “lostness of people out here in the world who need to know the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
“Hear their call! Hear their call!” Welch nearly screamed. “And then heed the challenge.”
Welch cited part of his text, saying, “The man said, ‘Refuge failed me.’” Welch believes the best refuge for spiritual refugees is found in Jesus Christ and the local church. The challenge is to reach the refugees.
Drawing attention to a commitment card distributed to all attendees, Welch said he’s “praying and hoping and believing Southern Baptists” will undertake all six challenges detailed on the card in the year after the SBC’s 2005 annual meeting to be held in Nashville, Tenn.
Designed to lead to true church growth, the six points are:
• train and equip
• witness and win
• Vacation Bible School
• starting new units
Not touting any particular program, Welch said churches should use whatever evangelism training format they want. “Our churches don’t suffer from a lack of training,” Welch said. “We suffer from a lack of training that gets us on the street.”
If every Southern Baptist church undertook and completed the six points of challenge in a year, Welch said, then far more than one million people would hear the Gospel and at least one million would be baptized into the membership of those churches.
“If every Southern Baptist pastor would just win one person a month for a year, we could baptize about a half-million,” he said.
“Someone said the Southern Baptist Convention had never baptized 500,000,” Welch remarked to the crowd. “What’s that got to do with anything? We ought to be ashamed of it, and blow on by it, and get to where we ought to be.”
Noting stewardship specifically, Welch said, “Our churches need a good dose of Bible stewardship.” Welch said SBC churches are going to need the financial resources to handle the influx of new believers and to train and equip them also.
Recalling his visits to sites of hurricane devastation in Florida and seeing SBC Disaster Relief teams, along with their trucks, food, cook stoves, and portable showers, which are results of stewardship to the SBC Cooperative Program, Welch said, “I thought to myself, ‘My wife and I couldn’t afford to buy the tires for one of these trucks. But we just did,’” he said, smiling, because of his church’s commitment to stewardship and the Cooperative Program. FBC Daytona Beach has given 15 percent to the CP for 30 years.
“We’ve got to hear the call, heed the challenge, and we’ve got to halt those cries: ‘And no man cared for my soul,’” said Welch, noting his third point. “That’s got to stop. That’s got to stop. People have got to know we care for their soul.”
“Can you go to any more funerals of family members and friends and co-workers and wonder if anyone cared enough for them to share the Gospel when you have the Gospel and they need it?” Welch asked. “Who cares for souls?”
Welch cited the account of the rich man and the poor man recorded in Luke 16, saying the rich man “wasn’t in hell 20 seconds before he became a soul winner. He started hollering, ‘Send someone back to tell my five brothers.’ And what did he say to tell them? ‘Repent, repent, don’t come to this place.’”
“Well, if people in hell care for souls,” Welch said, “it’s not thinkable that we won’t care for them.”
“This is our day, this is our time, and you’re the people that’s got to do it,” he said. “If we don’t do it now, it’s not going to get done.”