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Prayer & common bonds mark Welch’s stop in Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The touch of prayer lifted the national bus tour of Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch in Richmond, Va., Aug. 31, first at the International Mission Board and then at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church.

IMB President Jerry Rankin, in a late-afternoon time of prayer at the SBC mission board offices, prayed that God would “bless the rally tonight at Staples Mill, as people gather there to go out in the community and share their witness.”

“Lord, just bless this whole tour,” Rankin continued in interceding for Welch’s initiative to bolster the cause of evangelism.

“We pray that You’d give protection on the highway. We pray that you would give strength and energy in a demanding travel schedule. Lord, just bless those that travel with him [Welch] and those that he contacts on the way. I just pray that You would anoint this endeavor by Your presence. Lord, just bless it with many people coming to know You as Savior and Lord.”

Welch conceived of a national bus tour rally as a means of generating a sense of urgency about evangelism among Southern Baptists. The tour is a kickoff for “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” by SBC churches in one year.

That evening, Welch joined hands in prayer with the executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and the president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia for the souls of Virginians.

Although the relationship between the two Virginia conventions is best described as competing, the leaders were unified in their commitment to reach Virginia for Christ.

Welch has set a goal to have face-to-face leadership meetings with 400 church and denominational leaders in the first 100 days of his presidency, which began June 15 at the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis. Going into September, he said he has now had 125-150 of those encounters.

Doyle Chauncey, executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, said after the gathering at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church he appreciates the way Welch is “directing his attention toward the grass roots, realizing that the church is really the headquarters for the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The evening gave him a strengthened focus on the fact “that if we’re ever going to make a difference in terms of increasing the number of baptisms, setting goals at the denominational level will not get the job done unless we go to the local church, the grass roots, because therein lies the source of increased baptisms,” Chauncey said, underscoring the need for “inspiring and motivating the local church, not just people meeting in [annual] conventions.”

Don Davidson, president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and pastor of Mount Hermon Baptist Church, Danville, Va., said Baptists are “a diverse group of people, but there are some things that are non-debatable.”

“Those things are the Lordship of Christ, the power of His Word and our mission, our purpose for being, which is evangelism,” Davidson said. “I appreciate President Welch really drawing attention to that. That will be, I think, what will keep us focused for the future.

“It was a wonderful experience, not only to be praying with the president of the Southern Baptist Convention but also to be praying with the director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia,” Davidson reflected. “It shows me that in Virginia, even though we have two state conventions, we are on the same page when it comes to wanting to reach people for Christ. We do agree on that. We’re brothers, and it was a beautiful experience to pray together.”

Welch agreed that “brothers all are we.”

Staples Mill Road Baptist Church is dually aligned with the two state conventions.
Art Toalston contributed to this article.

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  • Allen Palmeri