Welch sensing ‘traction’
toward 1 million baptisms
By Allen Palmeri
November 29, 2005
CENTRALIA – Two months into the “Everyone Can” Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) push for 1 million baptisms in one year, SBC President Bobby Welch is encouraged by the momentum he is feeling.
“We’re beginning to get traction now,” Welch said shortly after his Nov. 16 message at First Baptist Church, Centralia. “We are beginning to see the effects of what we have been doing. People are talking about witness, winning and baptizing.”
Welch came to Missouri on the tail end of a three-week speaking odyssey through 11 states. Charging through his second year as SBC president, the 62-year-old pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., is on a mission to motivate Southern Baptists to reach the lost.
“I’m talking about everybody getting the Gospel!” he thundered to the approximately 250 attendees, preaching with his customary sense of urgency.
After preaching stops in Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, New York, Arkansas, Michigan, Kentucky, Georgia and Oklahoma, Welch rolled into Centralia for a commissioning service within a four-day LifeWay FAITH Evangelism Training Clinic. Evangelist Clyde Chiles, a member at First Centralia who has known Welch for 40 years, secured his appearance and furnished him with transportation.
“The thing I like about Bobby is he’s a people person,” Chiles said. “He’s got time for anyone, and that is rare today.”
Indeed, Welch was both gracious and generous with his time as several people came up to him in the sanctuary after his message that came from I Corinthians 13:13. After satisfying all personal requests, he departed that night for Memphis, Tenn., in order to attend the funeral of Adrian Rogers.
The 1 million baptisms goal from Oct. 1, 2005, to Sept. 30, 2006, is now part of his being, much like the bus he rode in to tour the nation last year was part of his being. Welch visited all 50 states and Canada in 25 travel days, stopping at Southern Baptist churches along the way to encourage them to witness. While in Missouri, he stopped at First Baptist Church, Lebanon.
Through the many miles he made many friends. One of those folks left a voice mail recently — an Hawaiian pastor whose church plant baptized nine people last year. He called to tell Welch that the church had just baptized nine — on a single Sunday.
Welch, who said that this was the only one of 22 voice mails he answered that particular day, told his Centralia listeners that such results may lead to the denomination achieving its goal.
Welch has been leading from the front on the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy ever since he and Doug Williams, who also was in Centralia, created the material in 1982. He is passionate about pastors working the program. He talked about how one church changed pastors and discontinued FAITH, which led to a layman leaving the church and finding another congregation across town that had only been doing FAITH for three semesters. The layman promptly opened his checkbook and wrote his new church a check for $1 million.
“Beloved, it pays to visit,” Welch said.
FAITH is a fraternity, a family, and a fellowship, Welch said. It also is a force—“a force to see that everyone gets the Gospel,” he said.
He looks forward to the months ahead, when that force will be channeled into reports that will eventually appear on w ww.everyonecan.net.