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Bobby Welch: Bus tour has exceeded expectations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Nearing the end of the first half of his national bus tour, Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch gave a group of SBC employees an update Sept. 8 on how things have gone.

“We have not missed a meeting. We’ve been there on time. Everything has been well beyond expectations,” Welch told employees of both LifeWay Christian Resources and the SBC Executive Committee.

With the tour of all 50 states, Welch is seeking to heighten a sense of urgency for evangelism among Southern Baptists toward the 2005 kickoff of “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign, which has the goal of baptizing one million people in one year. The effort will begin at next June’s SBC annual meeting in Nashville.

“We are going to do better than we’ve done before in building those bridges [to the unchurched],” Welch said.

The first leg of the bus tour ends Sept 10 in Dallas, with the second leg to begin Sept. 23 in Cabot, Ark.

In addition to speaking to SBC employees, Welch also visited Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, where he was greeted by a group of church members and presented with a memento to help him remember Music City, USA: a mandolin.

“We hope you enjoy that. It will give you something to play with on the bus,” Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers, said.

“This may be my first shot at Nashville,” Welch said while people laughed. “Hey, I got the bus. Now I got the guitar. All I need is the singing to go with it.”

Welch commended Two Rivers for its presence in the community and said, “This church has always been an overwhelming lighthouse in Nashville.”

He called attention to Psalm 142, a prayer of David’s when he was hiding in a cave from the evil that surrounded him. Welch said the images of evil are embedded in minds across the world, and most Americans remember those from Sept. 11 and the Iraq war.

“Real people need to know about a real heaven and a real Lord,” Welch said, urging Two Rivers to step out even more into the community to seek those who are dying without Christ.

Welch mentioned an interview he saw with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in which Kissinger said if Americans don’t pursue terrorists abroad, the terrorists will follow them home and kill them here. The same is true with the church and the devil, he said. Christians must be on the offense if they are to have any chance of winning the fight.

“The fortress mentality is not the way to victory,” he said, making the connection to the reason for the bus tour.

Because of the tight schedule Welch was keeping to make the next stop, he opted to take a truck across the road to the food court at Opry Mills, a large mall that is a popular tourist attraction in Nashville, to do some evangelism instead of going door-to-door.

Welch spotted a tall, wide-framed, young black man who said his name was Chris. He knew about Two Rivers Baptist Church and said he attends a Pentecostal church called New Hope.

“Well, you know, my line is this, Chris. It ain’t the label on the bottle. It’s what’s in it,” Welch said, leading into some statements about the importance of a relationship with Christ drawn from the FAITH evangelism strategy Welch has pioneered.

“True…,” Chris said while nodding in agreement to the statements.

To break a little more ice, Welch asked the young man how much weight he could bench. Chris said he broke his shoulder last year, but before that he could handle 350 pounds.

“I was going to say 400 pounds,” Welch said with a smile.

When asked what he thinks it takes to go to heaven, Chris said a person must first believe in God, but he must also believe in himself.

Welch explained the importance of knowing Jesus Christ and then asked Chris if there had ever been a time when he asked Christ to come into his life. Chris said yes.

Then Welch asked him if he was living with one foot in church and the other foot “in some hell hole.”

“Are you straddling the fence?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m straddling the fence,” Chris said.

“Now look at me. I didn’t get all these scars on my head from reading the Bible every day,” Welch said as Chris laughed. “I got them from straddling the fence.”

Taking the Subway cup from Chris’ hand, Welch asked him to feel a scar on his chest. Welch explained how he got the injury in Vietnam and then came to know the Lord. Chris appeared to be impressed by the illustration.

Welch explained he had known the right way but was not living it at the time, and he encouraged Chris to live it now. Chris said he agreed and needed to get back into church. After a short prayer, he gave Welch his phone number, and a LifeWay Christian Resources employee who was accompanying Welch said he will follow up with Chris.

“Lord, thank you for letting us talk with Chris,” Welch said as he left the food court.

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