Destination: Show-Me state;
colorful bus, traveling crew headed for FBC Lebanon
Allen PalmeriStaff Writer
September 14, 2004
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bobby Welch, president, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), pastor, First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., is coming to Missouri.
Welch, pastor at First Daytona Beach for the last 30 years, is co-founder of the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy that is widely used in the SBC. He is currently on the road communicating that strategy as one component of an overall SBC emphasis to baptize one million people between the the SBC’s 2005 annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., and the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C. When the timing is right, Welch will move to Nashville as the annual meeting approaches to be part of the “tip of the spear” in this unprecedented evangelism movement in our time.
Why should Missouri care? Because Welch is scheduled to appear once — and once only — in Missouri on his current tour of 50 states plus Canada. That visit will come Sept. 23 at First Baptist Church, Lebanon, at 6 p.m., and Missourians should care enough to be there in some small way to participate in visitation.
The format is simple. Welch gives a motivational speech/sermon about the potential of the SBC, then witnesses to people as he tries (media permitting) to go out on visitation. Sometimes he just witnesses to the media and calls it good. Folks either follow his lead on the visitation part or get some gentle encouragement to participate. Generally, each stop lasts 2-4 hours before the bus fires its engine to carry Welch and his five-man crew to their next destination — like Tabernacle Baptist Church, Decatur, Ill., for example. He will ride overnight after his stop in Lebanon, sleeping on the bus as has been his custom since Aug. 29, when the tour was launched with great fanfare from his home church.
Missouri Baptists, like Southern Baptists in other states, are faced with a variety of issues. There are the on-going legal battles, the clashing of two separate, distinct conventions—one large, one small—and a white-hot issue known as “single alignment.” However, when Welch comes to Lebanon, he will be squarely focused on one issue: evangelism. Granted, he cares about the theological and legal issues facing all of American society and he is known for his ability to listen to any or all parties involved. But at one point all that stops. He will get out of the bus and share Jesus with someone who is lost. After spending 10 days on a 45-foot-long bus with Welch, I can testify that sharing Jesus is the main thing in his life.
How many Missouri Baptist pastors are leading like Welch? Did you know that for the last 23 years, for 45 consecutive “semesters” of 16 weeks each, he has committed to a regular schedule of evangelism/discipleship with his church? Did you know that he launched this nationwide tour for the SBC with his latest pledge to lead his flock at First Daytona Beach in yet another evangelism outreach? With that in mind, it is clear to see that Welch views the local church as the key to evangelism. Will your local church be represented in Lebanon?
Welch wants folks to try to witness to someone. How are we doing in the area of evangelism? I know I just came back from my travels with Welch in 20 states, and I can accurately report that he is leading by example in this area. The man is a soul-winning machine. He is a general, like George S. Patton, who leads from the front of a tank column. He would just as soon run out of gas behind enemy lines than look behind.
Welch is direct. He listens to problems that arise within our 16-million-member denomination, and he tries to offer useful advice and encouragement. Missouri Baptists will discover that his enthusiasm is contagious.
Does an SBC president like Welch have half a chance to see God move in His Almighty, El-Shaddai power for one special night in Missouri?
Let us be in prayer that the answer is yes. (Allen Palmeri is a Staff Writer for The Pathway.)